“Florida is the Front Line of Southern States”
“In the fight for LGBT equality, Florida leads among Southern states and has become the new frontline,” says Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's LGBT community.  “The next three years are primed for huge breakthroughs in this battleground state that will ripple nationwide.”
Florida leads among southern states in support for marriage equality and workplace nondiscrimination.
  • More than 100 Florida municipalities have LGBT protections in place. More than half our state's residents now live in places with nondiscrimination laws and nearly 70% of students go to schools with LGBT inclusive anti-bullying policies.  
  • In Florida, 73% of people support adding LGBT people into nondiscrimination laws, and public support for the freedom to marry IN FLORIDA reached an all time high of 54%!
  • The election of two out gay state representatives has changed the tone in Tallahassee, where support for LGBT protections are at an all-time high.
  • For the first time, the “Families First” bill, which would allow domestic partnerships statewide, passed through its first committee with bipartisan support, and dozens of local policies have passed across Florida, even in traditionally hostile areas of the state.
  • The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), aimed at ending anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, launched with such bipartisan support that the bill would pass if leadership allows a vote.
Equality Florida has announced plans to keep this momentum going in 2014 and beyond.  This includes stepping up efforts towards marriage equality, an end to discrimination in the workplace and working with local municipalities, one victory at a time, to build a solid foundation for statewide equality.
In communication to supporters, Equality Florida outlines three specific goals:
It won’t be easy. It will take a fight like we’ve never seen before, but with a growing, bipartisan majority of Floridians on our side, we are gearing up to win.  We have screened more than one thousand potential plaintiffs and are preparing to go to court to challenge Florida’s marriage ban.
And through our Get Engaged campaign, we are shifting public opinion so that if we do have to take a new constitutional amendment to the Florida ballot, we will have the support to win.
Just prior to the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA, Equality Florida launched Get Engaged, a statewide call to action with the goal of securing full marriage equality in the state of Florida.  In partnership with Freedom to Marry, the heart of the campaign is to engage Floridians in honest conversations about the harm inflicted on real families who are denied the freedom of marriage equality, including our friends, neighbors, family, politicians, celebrities and athletes; standing up and proclaiming their support for marriage equality. 
No one should be fired from their job for being LGBT.  Unfortunately, under state and federal law, that is still legal in Florida and 30 other states.  Florida is poised to become the breakthrough state in the South.
We have the votes to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act that would ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, but it will take all of us and our growing coalition of business allies to push for a vote on the floor in the State Capitol.
Support for ending discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace has never been higher, as an overwhelming majority of the nation’s largest employers already offer these protections.  Equality Florida has opened conversations with business leaders and with legislators throughout the state, playing a role in shaping policies as well as bipartisan support for the FCWA.
In 2010, Equality Florida formed  Equality Means Business to spotlight major employers in Florida that have adopted comprehensive non-discrimination policies and have demonstrated their commitment to valuing, and proactively including, all employees. The organization’s goal is to improve Florida’s national and international reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and visit.  Equality Means Business supports and provides resources to Florida employers who understand that diversity brings the skills, perspective and other assets that are essential to attracting and retaining a competitive workforce.
Local victories are the foundation on which our statewide wins are built.  Florida leads the South and has passed more than 100 local policies banning discrimination, providing domestic partner benefits and/or protecting LGBT students from bullying. 
In 2014, we will continue our push for policies that provide immediate and vital benefits, even in the least hospitable areas of our state. To win Florida, we have to fight in every city, every county, every neighborhood, and in our State Capitol.
Throughout the state, Equality Florida’s staff, board members and volunteers have been actively involved in nearly every effort to pass LGBT equality legislation.  Whether lobbying in Tallahassee, collecting signatures at events, facilitating anti-bullying measures or speaking at a commission meeting, Equality Florida will continue to step up efforts in every corner of the state until ALL Floridians have equal rights under the law.  
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Media Contact: 
Sharon Kersten, Kersten Communications 305.458.3639 / [email protected]

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