By REBECCA TURNER
Under Florida law, LGBTQ people can be fired, turned away from housing and face other consequences solely for being LGBTQ. The 2016 Florida legislative session appeared to host a spark of change, but it is being slowly smothered as Senate Bill 120, an anti-discrimination Bill, has stalled in the judiciary committee.
The Bill and its House equivalent, HB 45, is an attempt to offer statewide protections against discrimination based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. It would further amend Florida’s current anti-discrimination statute, The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. Doing this would expand protections so that LGBTQ people are on an equal playing field with their straight peers. The Bill will also offer protections for the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.
If the Bill fails to make it out of committee, LGBTQ people will continue to have lesser protection in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. College students, especially those in the LGBTQ community, may reconsider staying in Florida after they graduate if SB 120 fails.
The Senate version is a bipartisan Bill submitted by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, Democrat, with two Republican and eight Democrat co-sponsors. The House version is also bipartisan. It is sponsored by Rep. Holly Raschein, Republican, and co-sponsored by 21 democrats and nine Republicans.
House Bill 45 is currently in limbo following a Jan. 12 first reading. It has already been through the economic affairs and judiciary committees for discussion. Senate Bill 120 is in an even more uncertain position following its Feb. 3 tie 5-5 vote in the judiciary committee. Since it was a tie vote, it will later be reconsidered by the committee. Currently, SB 120 has not yet been scheduled on the judiciary committee’s calendar for reconsideration.
Much of the discussion against this Bill during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting focused on the use of workplace and public bathrooms by transgender people, according to The Florida Times Union. There is also the consideration of how this Bill, if it is passed or if it fails, could affect the Florida economy. Some of the proponents of the Bill include AT&T, Office Depot, Marriott and Wells Fargo and opposition includes the Florida Family Policy Council.
Email the state senator for the Tampa area and judiciary committee member, Sen. Jeff Brandes, at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your opinion on SB 120.