At long last, LGBT Floridians are free to have a home, a job and essentially exist in public spaces.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations announced Feb. 3 that it accepts the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. In a 6-3 decision, the high court ruled prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex also covers sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Protection for ALL Floridians just gained new meaning,” tweeted Florida Senator Shevrin Jones. “Hats off to the FL Commission on Human Relations for lifting up and upholding the law of the land!”
The commission was created in 1969 to enforce the state’s civil rights act and is assigned to the Department of Management Services. It is composed of 11 commissioners from various parts of the state who are appointed by the governor.
Nadine Smith, chief executive officer of Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, said the commission’s new direction is a “huge win and cause for celebration statewide.”
“Any LGBTQ person anywhere in Florida who experiences discrimination now has a path to pursue justice,” Smith said.
For many years Equality Florida had fought in the halls of Tallahassee to ensure LGBT Floridians could have secure employment, housing and public accommodations. The organization’s efforts to fight discrimination in these matters were bundled into what was termed the Competitive Workforce Act. Unfortunately, it was never passed into law by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.
Eight months after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of a Georgia man who was fired from his job for expressing an interest in playing in a gay softball league, Florida’s Commission on Human Relations finally took action.
“When I was elected to the legislature I set the goal of securing protections for LGBTQ people across the state,” said three-term Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith. “Today that goal was achieved. This is a moment to celebrate and continue the work of making our state a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone to live, work and visit.”
Reactions from the Florida Cabinet ranged from applause by Nikki Fried, the commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who called the decision “fundamental and necessary change” to silence from the offices of Governor Ron DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody.
Commissioner Monica Cepero of Fort Lauderdale, who made the motion to affirm the Bostock ruling, thanked Gov. DeSantis for her appointment and her colleagues for clarifying where LGBT Floridians stand under the law.
“In my nearly 30 years of public service, I can’t think of many more significant milestones that I have been honored to be a part of,” Cepero said in a news release distributed by Equality Florida.
Last year a study by the Public Religion Research Institute found 83% of Americans favored protecting LGBT people in matters of employment, housing and public accommodations. In Florida, more than 60% of the state’s LGBT population live in cities or counties where nondiscrimination measures are in place.
According to the Campaign for Southern Equality, Florida is only the second Southern state — after Virginia — to provide comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.