ABOVE: Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida

Tallahassee, fla. | Equality Florida has released a highlight of the battles fought on behalf of the LGBTQ community during Florida’s 2018 legislative session.

“Equality Florida started off with a tremendous presence in the Capitol, as dozens of equality champions converged on Tallahassee to make their voices – and yours – heard loud and clear,” the organization’s release reads. “Our team of veteran citizen lobbyists and first-timers alike put the Capitol on notice that Equality Florida and our LGBTQ community is a force to be reckoned with!”

Their number one mission for the session was opposing the now-defeated House Bill (HB) 871 and Senate Bill (SB) 1290. The bills were sponsored by Rep. Jay Fant and Sen. Dennis Baxley, respectively, and “disguised discrimination as business protection.”

“We know that the legislation was a response to the Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage equality and the recent passage of LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in Jacksonville,” Equality Florida advises. “The bills would have given businesses an unfettered license to discriminate by barring local government from taking enforcement action. They could have challenged decades of progress toward LGBTQ equality.”

As for their top priority for support, Equality Florida points to HB 347, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), sponsored by Reps. Ben Diamond and Rene Plasencia, as well as SB 66 sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson. “The FCWA would finally prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians and ensure that Florida is a safe place to live, work, and play for all people, including those who are LGBTQ.”

They also note that the bill is the third-most co-sponsored of the session, with 45 percent of Florida legislators lending their name as co-sponsors. “This is a wakeup call from the emerging leaders making clear that the time has come to hear and pass the FCWA,” Equality Florida says.

Their release advises that had HB 211 by Reps. Joe Geller and Al Jacquet and SB 696 by Sen. Kevin Rader passed, it would have expanded Florida’s existing law “so that crimes evidencing prejudice based in whole or in part on gender or gender identify are also considered hate crimes.”

While the bill passed out of Florida’s Senate Criminal Justice Committee on its first ever hearing, Equality Florida says “the clock ran out” for securing a second. They note that they will continue their support for the expansion of the state’s hate crimes law, particularly to “ensure transgender and gender non-conforming people [are given] the full protection of law.”

HB 717 by Reps. Evan Jenne and David Silvers, as well as SB 696 by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, would have banned the practice of conversion therapy in Florida. “We continue to make great progress in passing local conversion therapy bans,” they note, “and will continue to work toward a statewide solution.”

The organization also highlighted HB 6027 by Rep. David Richardson and SB 130 by Sen. Gary Farmer, which “would repeal outdated statutory language that prohibits recognizing any same-sex marriages and that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.” While the bill was introduced early in the session, the legislature refused to hear it.

For more information about Equality Florida’s top legislative priorities, visit www.eqfl.org.

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