Tampa Bay Lawmakers Lead Fight for Statewide LGBT Protections

Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg.) Graphic via Equality Florida

(WM) Equality Florida announced Aug. 28 that Tampa Bay lawmakers intend to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) with bipartisan support in 2020, extending statewide civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community.

The FCWA prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations. It would amend the Florida statute currently prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex national origin, age, handicap and marital status.

In its current form, the FCWA was first introduced in 2009. In 2019, it received record breaking bipartisan support, with sponsorship or cosponsorship from 74 Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Equality Florida secured 57 cosponsors with a dozen more pledging a vote in support in the Florida House, where 61 votes are needed to pass legislation—and 17 cosponsors in the Senate, where 21 are needed to pass.

Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa), who serves as the majority deputy whip, will lead as the FCWA’s primary sponsor in the legislature next session. The sponsorship comes during what Equality Florida calls “a moment when legislation adding LGBTQ protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations has earned unprecedented support.”

Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg), the Democratic deputy whip and first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the Florida Legislature, will serve as lead cosponsor. Supporting them is Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key West), chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resource Appropriations subcommittee, who once served as the bill’s lead sponsor. Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), vice chair of banking and insurance, leads the effort to pass the FCWA in the Florida Senate.

“This year we have some of the most powerful and effective representatives in the Florida House leading the charge,” Equality Florida Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer said in a statement. “When our community is focused and united, we win. This is the year we can win comprehensive protections for our community in housing, employment, and public accommodations.”

“In 2013, I was the first Republican to pledge my full support for LGBTQ civil rights in Florida,” Rep. Raschein said. “Last session fifteen of our Republican colleagues cosponsored the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. I am hopeful 2020 is the year to get this done.”

“LGBTQ Floridians need protection in housing, employment and public accommodations,” Rep. Toledo noted. “I’m honored to introduce this important legislation with a team of the most effective lawmakers in the process. Together we’re going to make Florida more competitive for top talent and business. And we’re going to ensure that no family is denied an opportunity because of who they are or who they love.”

“Women know how to get it done,” Rep. Webb added, pointing toward Reps. Toledo and Raschein. “We’re walking into session with 2020 vision. 2020 is the year we get this popular and common sense legislation across the finish line and move our state and our LGBTQ community forward.”

“This is the civil rights issue of our time,” Sen. Rouson also shared. “I’m excited to work with this team of dynamic State House leaders to ensure Florida recognizes the full equality of its citizens.”

Equality Florida also celebrated the news via social media:

The FCWA has received public support from major Florida employers including Disney, Darden and Tech Data. According to Equality Florida, local comprehensive non-discrimination protections that include gender identity and sexual orientation cover 60 percent of Florida’s population.

For more information about Equality Florida and its efforts to pass the FCWA, visit EQFL.org.

 
 

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