Watermark’s 2015 Florida Legislative Tracker

By : Watermark Staff
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Florida’s Congress has been busy this year hearing and voting on bills that effect the LGBT community from marriage and adoption to where we can use the bathroom.

Knowing which ones you should be paying attention to and what’s going on with them can be confusing but no fear, Watermark is here. Below is a breakdown of the seven bills of LGBT interest in the Florida House and Senate that you should keep an eye on.

Read up, get informed and let your representative know where you stand on these issues.

The House as adjourned, or Sine Die, three days ahead of schedule. The Senate’s next session will be April 28 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Florida’s 2015 legislative sessions end May 1.

Conscience Protection for Private Child-Placing Agencies (CS/HB 7111)
What is it: “No private child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist in, recommend, consent to, or participate in any placement of a child when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”

What it means: If passed, privately owned adoption agencies would be able to deny couples or individuals from adopting a child based on the person’s sexual orientation, race, gender, religious preference, political beliefs, hair color and/or shoe size if they say it goes against their religious beliefs or moral code.

Current status: The Florida House’s Health & Human Service Committee voted on March 19 to approve the bill. On March 24 the bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. On April 2, the Committee voted 11-4 to pass the bill and advance it to the House floor. The House has sent the bill, now amended, to its third reading. The House voted to pass the bill 75-38 April 9. The bill, now in the Senate, has been placed in the Committee on Rules. On April 20, the Committee spent 2 hours hearing from speakers for and against the bill taking them to the end of the session. Voting on the bill had to be postponed and with such little time left in the 2015 session, it is unlikely that this bill will come up for a vote and move out of Committee.

Single-Sex Public Facilities (CS/CS/HB 583)
What is it: “Provides purpose & legislative findings; requires that use of single-sex public facilities be restricted to persons of sex for which facility is designated; prohibits knowingly & willfully entering single-sex public facility designated for or restricted to persons of other sex; provides criminal penalties; provides private cause of action against violators; provides exemptions; provides applicability with respect to other laws; provides for preemption.”

What it means: This bill would prohibit individuals from using public facilities that align with their gender identities. This would force transgender men to use the ladies room even if they are sporting broad shoulders and a beard and would cause transgendered women to use facilities filled with men even though they identify as female and look so in appearance.

Current status: The Government Operations Subcommittee approved the bill on March 17 and is now in the Judiciary Committee as of March 19. The committee had its final meeting, however the bill was not on the agenda. Barring some extraordinary measure, this bill will most likely die in the House and not move forward this year.

Adoption and Foster Care (CS/HB 7013)
What is it: “Revising requirements for agreements between the Department of Children and Families and specified entities for the provision of educational services.”

What it means: The removing of the language to ban gay adoption was part of a larger adoption bill that provides adoption benefits to state employees and incentive payments to community-based care groups. Of the twenty pages of bill language, just a single line applies to deleting the ban on adoption by gays and is mostly just symbolic since Florida’s adoption ban was ruled unconstitutional back in 2010.

Current status: The bill was passed by the Florida House on March 11 and has moved to the Florida Senate where it was referred to Children, Families and Elders Affairs: Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on March 17. The Senate heard the bill on April 8 and voted on April 14. The bill passed the State Senate 27-11, it has been enrolled in the House and will now go to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed.

Domestic Partners (HB 573/SB 854)
What is it: “The House bill requires facility providing mental health services to authorize access to patient by domestic partner; establishes requirements for domestic partnership; identifies rights afforded to domestic partners; provides for termination of domestic partnership; authorizes domestic partner to serve as health care proxy.

The Senate bill reads Requiring the clerk of the circuit court to collect a filing fee for domestic partner registrations; providing for the deposit of moneys generated from the fee charged for a Declaration of Domestic Partnership into the Displaced Homemaker Trust Fund; establishing requirements for domestic partnership; identifying rights afforded to domestic partners; providing that the act does not preempt the authority of a county or municipality to enact a domestic partnership ordinance that does not conflict with the act, etc.”

What it means: Both bills would grant registered domestic partners a number of rights and protections, including end-of-life decisions, medical care, funeral arrangements and childcare. According to the house bill, fees collected from domestic partner registrations will be used to create a domestic violence trust fund.

Current status: The House bill was sent to the Civil Justice subcommittee on Feb. 11 and had its first reading on March 3. The subcommittee has no meeting scheduled at this time. The Senate bill was introduced on March 3 and is currently in the Judiciary committee.

Prohibited Discrimination (HB 33/ SB 156)
What is it: “The House bill creates ‘Florida Competitive Workforce Act’; prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity or expression; defines terms; provides exceptions for constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.

The Senate bill Creates the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act”; revising provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and the perception of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, handicap, or marital status as impermissible grounds for discrimination; adding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as impermissible grounds for discrimination, etc.”

What it means: This bill would create the Competitive Workforce Act which would prohibit discrimination based  on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would protect against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Current status: The House bill was sent to the Civil Justice subcommittee on Dec. 19 last year and was read on March 3. The subcommittee has no meeting scheduled at this time. The Senate bill was picked up by the Judiciary committee on Dec. 17 and introduced on March 3.

Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (HB 83/SB 204)
What is it: “Both the House and Senate bills prohibit persons who are licensed to provide professional counseling and various practitioners who are licensed under provisions regulating the practice of medicine, osteopathic medicine, psychology, clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, or mental health counseling from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts on behalf of a person who is younger than a specified age.”

What it means: This bill would prevent therapists from administering “ex-gay conversion therapy” to minors. Similar laws have past in New Jersey, California, Washington D.C. and, most recently, Oregon. Florida is one of two dozen states that are currently hearing cases against conversion therapy.

Current status: The House sent the bill to the Health Innovations subcommittee on Dec. 19 and had its first reading on March 3. The subcommittee has no meeting scheduled at this time. The Senate bill was referred to the Health Policy Committee on Jan. 8.

Marriage/Issuance of Marriage Licenses to Persons of the Same Sex (HB 4037/SB 1428)
What is it: “Both bills would delete the requirement that marriage licenses only be issued to one male & one female; deletes provision specifying that term “marriage” in statute or rule means only legal union between one man & one woman as husband & wife & that term “spouse” applies only to member of such union.”

What it means: Legal gay marriage in the state of Florida. But you may be asking yourself I thought this was already legal. It is to a point. This bill would “finish the job” by repealing the language that prevents county clerks from issuing same sex marriage licenses.

Current status: The House bill was sent to the Civil Justice subcommittee on Feb. 18 and had its first reading on March 3. The subcommittee has no meeting scheduled at this time. The Senate bill is currently in the Judiciary committee as of March 3.

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