NEWS RELEASE: Our 2015 Florida Legislative Scorecard
Our 2015 Florida Legislative Scorecard
Equality Florida celebrates the defeat of two bills
and the passage of another
As this year’s regular legislative session draws to a close, Equality Florida is thankful that two anti-LGBT measures did not pass; and that one very good bill for all Floridians is on its way to the governor.
With telephone calls, emails and personal testimony, Equality Florida members and supporters worked hard to defeat two discriminatory bills.
HB 583, which would have made it a crime for transgender people to use single-sex bathrooms and other facilities not corresponding to their assigned sex at birth, failed to reach the floor. Two House committees did approve it, with most Republicans in support, but it stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.
HB 7111, which would have worked against the needs of foster children by allowing tax-supported adoption agencies to discriminate against qualified prospective parents because of religious or personal bias, did pass the House. But it died when the powerful Senate Rules Committee decided not to put it on the full Senate agenda. Senators, mostly Republicans in this case, said the bill was too flawed to consider.
”Activism is not dead. We can say that for sure after this session,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, public policy specialist for Equality Florida. “The failure of HB 583 and HB 7111 has everything to do with the Floridians who showed up en masse to speak out against this type of discrimination. The sponsors of these mean-spirited bills underestimated the level of outrage that their proposals would provoke.”
On the positive side, an overhaul of Florida’s foster care system, designed to improve foster children’s chances for adoption, includes a repeal of the state’s ban on gay or lesbian adoptions. That ban, enacted in 1977, has not been enforced since 2010, when a state appeals court ruled it was unconstitutional. Religious conservatives fought the repeal nonetheless.
Assuming that Gov. Rick Scott signs the bill, the ban will now be removed from state statutes. The repeal was spearheaded by the Legislature’s one openly gay member, State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach.
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, amending Florida’s civil rights law to include anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people statewide, did not get a hearing this session. However, the bill picked up four new Republican co-sponsors, and support from Florida’s business community continued to grow. More than 30 major Florida employers, 400 local businesses and 15,000+ residents have signed on in support.
“It’s an exciting time in the LGBT human rights movement,” said Nadine Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of Equality Florida. “We’ve had many successes, including same-sex couples in Florida gaining the freedom to marry this year.” (Equality Florida was one of several organizations that successfully challenged the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in court. Its lead plaintiffs were the first in the state to marry, in Miami-Dade County, on January 5.)
“At the same time, this year’s legislative session showed the extreme backlash from a small but vocal segment of the population that still wants to discriminate against LGBT people.
“We are grateful for the support and participation of so many. And we will not rest until we win full equality for every person in Florida.”