This morning the Orlando Sentinel ran an editoral calling on state lawmakers to put an end to LGBT discrimination by passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Equality Florida has been pushing for this legislation since 2007, and last year 6 Republicans signed on as co-sponsors to the bill filed by Representative Joe Saunders.
Here is the Orlando Sentinel Editorial:
Lawmakers must ban LGBT discrimination -- editorial
This month the U.S. Senate struck a blow against one of the last legal bastions of bigotry.
Breaking from the chamber's pattern of gridlock, a bipartisan majority passed a bill that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Ten Republicans joined Democrats and independents in voting for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Unfortunately, Florida's Marco Rubio was not among the Republicans who took a stand against discrimination.
ENDA is grounded in the sound principle that employees should simply be judged by how well they can do their jobs. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of the Republicans who supported the bill, correctly described workplace discrimination as "inconsistent with the basic values that America holds dear."
Sponsors of the bill, to make it less objectionable to opponents, exempted employers with fewer than 15 employees along with churches and religiously affiliated organizations. But like another bipartisan measure passed by the Senate, this year's immigration reform bill, ENDA has run into a brick wall erected by misguided House leaders.
Speaker John Boehner contended the bill would lead to frivolous lawsuits and hurt small businesses. Yet a study issued this summer by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' own auditing arm, found there were "relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity" in states with their own laws.
Florida isn't among states that ban workplace discrimination against gays. But equal protections for all employees here don't have to await U.S. House leaders seeing the light.
Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando, backed by a couple dozen other lawmakers, has introduced legislation that would ban discrimination in Florida in employment, as well as housing and other public services, based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He and his co-sponsors are emphasizing an obvious benefit from their bill that should resonate, even in a Legislature dominated by social conservatives: economic competitiveness. Protecting workers from discrimination will attract more of the best and brightest to Florida. It's no wonder that most Fortune 500 companies have their own anti-discrimination policies.
Bills like Saunders' have been introduced every year since 2007 — yet never even given a hearing. Florida continues to lag far behind most other states in granting gays equal rights and protections.
Leaders in Tallahassee should seize the opportunity next year to get on the right side of justice and history.