LGBTQ South Florida

National groups back the Florida Competitive Workforce Act amid LGBTQ rift

Edgard Perez and Charles Windham get married in the Clerk’s office, 140 West Flagler, on the first full day of gay marriage in Florida Tuesday Jan 6, 2015.
Edgard Perez and Charles Windham get married in the Clerk’s office, 140 West Flagler, on the first full day of gay marriage in Florida Tuesday Jan 6, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

National civil rights groups reaffirmed their support Thursday for a sweeping LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill that has stalled for years in the Florida Legislature and warned that a spin-off effort to pass a limited version of the legislation would marginalize transgender people.

The Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU were among several prominent organizations to release a joint statement with Equality Florida in favor of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would protect gay and transgender people in the workplace, housing and in public places, such as restaurants. The bill, which has failed for a decade to gain traction in Florida’s conservative state government, was filed again this week by Sen. Darryl Rouson.

“It has never been more important for LGBTQ people and our allies to demand true equality and full inclusion in public life,” read the statement, which was also co-signed by the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Though it’s not explicitly noted, the groups released the statement one day after Sen. Joe Gruters filed a bill to give gay and transgender people protections in the workplace only.

Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, filed his bill at the behest of SAVE, a Miami-based LGBTQ organization that believes a more limited bill with Republican support has a far better chance of passing. Currently, the Florida Civil Rights Act does not contain protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and advocates for the bill stress that it does not drop protections for transgender people in order to benefit the gay community.

But with significant support, Equality Florida has pushed back, arguing that the only tenable position for the LGBTQ community is to argue for comprehensive protections under Florida law.

“Excluding public accommodations protections would continue to leave LGBTQ communities — particularly the transgender community — at risk of grave harm, and gives credence to mistaken and discredited assumptions about who transgender people are,” the groups said in their statement. “No one should be denied access to public spaces and to public life simply because of who they are.”

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