Florida House committee will consider
Indiana-style adoption bill Thursday
Meanwhile, lawmakers are blocking a bill
that would ban LGBT discrimination
April 1, 2015
As Indiana struggles with the growing political and economic backlash over its so-called religious freedom law, Florida lawmakers are pursuing a similar bill that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against gay people by invoking a personal religious objection.
Florida legislative leaders also are refusing to allow a vote on a bipartisan bill that would add LGBT protections to the state’s nondiscrimination law.
“Lawmakers should choose equal protection over discrimination,” Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said Wednesday, calling on them to reject the Indiana-style adoption bill and to take up the nondiscrimination measure.
The adoption bill (H.B. 7111) will be heard at 8 a.m. by the House Judiciary Committee. Even its sponsor, State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, acknowledged in a previous hearing that his “conscience protection” bill would allow both secular and faith-based agencies to discriminate against any class of people they choose, so long as they claim their decision is part of their “religious or moral convictions.”
The hastily written bill was introduced mid-session, in response to the House unexpectedly voting to eliminate Florida’s ban on gay and lesbian adoptions. The ban had not been enforced since 2010, when an appellate court ruled it unconstitutional, but it remains on the books. Indiana lawmakers were similarly motivated, introducing their bill as a counter to gay couples marrying.
Indiana is now reeling from a spontaneous boycott that has already cost the state millions in new jobs lost and business cancelled. Dozens of major businesses and institutions from Apple to NASCAR have publicly condemned Indiana’s new law as a “license to discriminate”. Conventions and concerts have been cancelled.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has vowed to “clarify” the law to make clear it does not condone anti-LGBT discrimination. But attention has now turned to what other states are doing when it comes to discriminatory laws.
Indeed, Florida has had a “religious freedom” law for more than 20 years. That law was passed with broad support from progressive and conservative organizations as a way to affirm the separation of church and state, and it differs in significant ways from the Indiana law. But even without an Indiana version on the books the bottom line is no state law protects Floridians from anti-LGBT discrimination.
There’s an easy way to resolve the matter and avoid stumbling into the same path as Indiana, said Smith, who leads Florida’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.
“Florida lawmakers can seize this moment to send a clear message that we are a state where discrimination has no place and where hard work and talent matter, by rejecting this Indiana-style adoption bill,” Smith said. “We also call on the legislature to fast-track the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a statewide non-discrimination bill that is backed by Florida business and enjoys strong bipartisan support.”
The workforce bill is sponsored by House Republican Holly Raschein and Democratic Senator Joseph Abruzzo. It has garnered ten Republican sponsors and the backing of a coalition of top Florida employers including Disney, Darden, Florida Blue and more than 300 small businesses.
A statewide University of Florida poll last year showed that 73 percent of Floridians support such a law; a vast majority assume it already exists. In fact, Florida is a patchwork quilt with local protections in some areas but none in the vast majority of counties.
Research shows that Florida, like Indiana, is paying an economic penalty by failing to protect its residents and visitors. An economic study released last week showed that Florida businesses lose $362-million a year because of the state’s lack of a uniform anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Those hard costs -- in lowered productivity and employee turnover -- come in addition to the competitive disadvantage many companies experience when trying to recruit the most talented employees, several executives who participated in the study said.
The study was produced by Thinkspot Inc., a Florida-based economic and public policy consultancy, for Equality Means Business, a coalition that includes many of the state’s leading industries. A copy of the report is available here.
“It is clearly in the state’s interests to provide equal protection for all employees against discrimination,” said Smith. “It would help Florida transform its reputation into a more welcoming place for all people, and it will allow the businesses based here to prosper by improving employee productivity, curbing turnover, and addressing current disadvantages in the recruitment of top talent.”
Equality Florida Institute is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. www.eqfl.org