Jacksonville Companies Lead Push Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

January 15, 2014

Written By: Timothy Gibbons

Jacksonville companies make up a third of the founding members of a business group looking for a state law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.

CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX), The Haskell Co., Florida Blue and the University of North Florida have joined with the likes of Walt Disney World Co., Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) in forming the Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce.

The group is working with Equality Florida to get the Competitive Workforce Act through the Florida legislature: The bill would add to state law protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

The effort is similar to the 2012 fight to expand Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance to include such protections — and the reasons are the same, said Haskell CEO Steve Halverson, who leads the Civic Council.

"From a pragmatic business standpoint, we compete nationally and globally for talent," said Halverson, who was one of the main proponents of the HRO expansion. "It just doesn’t do for us to be anything other than a welcoming place to work for all people regardless of sexual orientation."

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