Florida House leaves Bathroom Bill flushed and the Conscience Protection Bill unadopted

By : Jeremy Williams
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May 1 was to be the day to get things done at the Florida Capitol, during the final session for state representatives and senators. Instead, the halls were silent as the House adjourned three days early due to a budget impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) thanked the state representatives for their “patience as we work through a really incredibly unusual session” before declaring adjournment sine die on April 28.

While members of both the House and Senate work out a plan for a special session, possibly in June, to work on the budget, all other business that went unfinished now dies. This includes several bills that directly affect the LGBT community in Florida.

The Single-Sex Public Facilities bill (HB 583), also known as the “bathroom bill,” would have required an individual to use the restroom that matches that person’s gender at birth.

Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami introduced the bill on Feb. 4. Many who supported the bill said it would allow for security, safety and privacy for all individuals using single-sex public facilities while also preventing anti-transgender sex crimes.

Artiles maintained that the bill was “not an attack on transgender people, bisexuals, homosexuals or any sexual orientation.”

The House’s Government Operations Subcommittee approved the bill on March 17 and moved it to the Judiciary Committee on March 19, but the bill was never placed on the Committee’s meeting agenda.
With the House session officially over, the ‘bathroom bill” is dead.

“Thank you to so many passionate voices speaking out against this hateful bill that made such a difference, by opening many hearts and minds,” wrote Equality Florida’s Gina Duncan on her Facebook page.

Another bill, the Conscience Protection for Private Child-Placing Agencies (HB 7111), died before reaching the Senate floor for a vote. HB 7111 would have given child-placement agencies the right to deny adoptions to a couple or individual if it violates that agency’s religious or moral convictions.

The Republican-led House passed the bill on April 9 with a vote of 75-38, almost directly down party lines.

The bill was then heard by the Senate’s Rules Committee on April 20. The Committee moved to postpone the bill at the end of the 2015 session without a vote, which effectively killed the bill.

The anti-gay Conscience Protection bill had been proposed in the Florida House as a reaction to the approval of the Adoption and Foster Care bill (HB 7013), which struck outdated statutory language that banned gay people from adopting in the state of Florida.

The ban has been obsolete and unenforced since 2010, when it was ruled unconstitutional by a Florida appeals court.

The move to scrub the gay adoption ban language was an amendment added to part of a larger adoption bill that would provide adoption benefits to state employees and incentive payments to community-based care groups.

Rep. David Richardson, who is openly gay, introduced the proposed amendment to the bill that would remove the anti-gay verbiage of the state’s adoption ban.

House bill 7013 was approved by the House and moved to the Senate where it also passed with a vote of 27-11. The bill awaits Governor Rick Scott to sign it and become official on July 1.

Several other LGBT bills were proposed in both the House and the Senate this session.

The Prohibited Discrimination bill (HB 33/SB 156) looked to create the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) which would protect against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was introduced and sat in committee in both the House and Senate without being read. An FCWA bill has been introduced in some form since 2007 but has died in committee each session.

The Sexual Orientation Change Effort bill (HB 83/SB 204) was introduced in both the House and Senate this year but sat in committee without a single vote. The bill would prevent therapists from administering “ex-gay conversion therapy” to minors. Similar laws have passed in New Jersey, California, Washington D.C. and, most recently, Oregon.

Florida is one of two dozen states that heard cases against conversion therapy this legislative session.

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