(WM) Pasco Pride has launched a concentrated effort to enact a Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) in Pasco County to protect LGBT residents from discrimination.
The organization held its second annual festival last October. It exists to strengthen and support Pasco County’s growing LGBT community and sees the passage of a countywide HRO as an extension of that mission.
“We’re trying to implement the first HRO in Pasco County because the LGBTQ community deserves equal protections,” Pasco Pride President Nina Borders says. “Under the current policies we are not a protected class and can be legally discriminated against for our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.”
To raise awareness, Pasco Pride launched a Change.org petition to present to Pasco County’s five county commissioners, the local legislative and policy-making body. The organization hopes to present the elected officials with specific examples of support from residents within the districts they represent.
“Let our county commissioners know we deserve equal rights and protections,” it reads. “We need an HRO!” More than 200 supporters have currently signed the petition.
Equality Florida notes that 60% of the state’s population is covered by local nondiscrimination protections that include gender identity and sexual orientation. The organization has long sought the passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would provide statewide protections, but notes that Republican leadership continues to block their efforts despite wide-ranging support.
The act was the third most cosponsored piece of legislation during the last two legislative sessions, the organization advises. It also currently has 66 bipartisan cosponsors across the Florida House and Senate – including Republican State Rep. Amber Mariano, whose district includes Pasco County.
Despite inaction in Tallahassee, Borders says she has met with several county commissioners regarding the HRO in hopes of receiving local support. “It’s all about dialogue,” she says. “An HRO is good for the economy. It’s good for business. It creates a diverse workforce and as Pasco County grows, bringing in younger families and new businesses, those people need to be protected.”
Pasco County Communications Manager Tambrey Laine confirmed the meetings. “Pasco County Commissioners regularly meet individually with citizens to hear their concerns and to learn more about their initiatives,” she says. “Commissioners are aware of the request for a Human Rights Ordinance.”
Laine further notes that discussion and commentary on the HRO would be offered “if these matters are brought before the Board as a whole at a public meeting.” The meetings are typically scheduled for every other Tuesday at either the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey or the Historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City.
“No one should be discriminated against for who they are or who they love,” Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer says. “Nondiscrimination protections in Pasco County would help ensure the LGBTQ community is treated with the same fairness we expect for everyone.
“Leadership in the legislature continues to hold back statewide protections,” he concludes, “but the Pasco County Commission can make its priorities clear and ensure that Pasco is a safe and welcoming pact for everyone to live, work and visit.”