Tampa Bay lawmakers lead fight for statewide LGBTQ protections

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg.) Graphic via Equality Florida.

ST. PETERSBURG | 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.

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Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones endorsed by Equality Florida Action PAC for state Senate District 35

By : Jeremy Williams
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Equality Florida Action PAC announced July 25 that it would be endorsing Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones for the state’s District 35 Senate seat in the 2020 election.

Jones, who is openly gay, would become Florida’s first openly-LGBTQ state senator if elected.

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The Other Side Of Life: Hashtag Amity

By : Jason LeClerc
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I was recently honored to be a guest of Pulse founder Barbara Poma for an intimate talk and tour of the interim #PulseMemorial organized by Equality Florida. As regular readers of this column know, I’m Watermark’s token conservative columnist: a red soul in a sea of blue, even as I have advocated for a just-right-of-center, nuanced approach to political discourse that I call Radical Centrism.

Arguing from a position of empathy and fact-driven rationality in favor of such positions as climate change resiliency, justifiable local taxation and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, I have riled members of my own Party. In the age of Trump, I’ve become a bit of a #RINOsaur. While there are members of the current Republican power structure who are ready to revoke my membership card for some of my #RadicalCentrist positions, my attendance of an Equality Florida event would likely push them further toward apoplexy.

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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith talks wins and losses from the 2019 legislative session

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith with fiancé Jerick Mediavilla (R) on stage with Gina Duncan and Jeff Prystajko minutes after the proposal at the Come Out With Pride Rally in 2018. (Photo by Danny Garcia)

ORLANDO | Florida’s 2019 legislative session wrapped with a $91 billion budget and with less than 200 of the more than 1,800 bills filed surviving on May 4.

“For all intents and purposes, this legislative session was a disaster for Floridians. But the budget was decent,” says State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49). “That is my assessment. The budget was just OK and [the Republican House majority] destroyed everything else.”

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Equality Florida urges lawmakers to pass FCWA ahead of SCOTUS decision on LGBTQ rights

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | With the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)poised to determine if federal law bars anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Equality Florida is urging lawmakers to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) to protect LGBTQ Floridians.

Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community, has long supported the FCWA. It would amend the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to add sexual orientation and gender identity, extendingstatewide housing, employment and public accommodation protections to the LGBTQ community.

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Florida lawmakers, activists divided on how to best legislate equality

By : A.S. Reynolds
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Florida’s legislative session convenes each March, a time where our legislators make or amend state law. With each session comes an opportunity for lawmakers to add LGBTQ employment and accommodation protections to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which currently secures freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

Since 2007, lawmakers have introduced legislation fighting for equality on these fronts but have met failure in the conservative Florida legislature. This year, Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-Gulfport), Sen. Darryl Rouson (D- St. Petersburg) and Sen. Joe Gruters (R- Sarasota) have introduced two differing LGBTQ equality bills ahead of the 2019 Florida legislative session, scheduled to begin March 5.

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Equality Florida highlights 2018’s statewide legislative battles

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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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.

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Florida legislators wrap up a contentious session leaving the LGBTQ community relatively unscathed

By : Billy Manes
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Sine Die, they call it, the antiquated drop of the hanky to end the legislative session in Florida. On May 8, the bicameral bluster in Tallahassee came to an end following the approval of an $83 billion state budget that will siphon more taxpayer dollars to charter schools, and, remarkably, pull some power away from the state’s tourism driver, Visit Orlando. Those were the big headlines.

And while LGBTQ issues made their way around committees and lobbies, Equality Florida was there to fight back on some of the social issues.

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Joe Saunders named a gay candidate to watch by MSNBC

By : Staff Report
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With November coming closer into sight, what better way to embrace Pride Month than by acknowledging the hard work of LGBT politicians across the United States. MSNBC recently released a photo essay titled “12 gay candidates to watch in 2014,” where Florida House District 49, Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando was named onto the list.

Elected in 2012 as one of the first openly gay legislators in Florida, Saunders represents what is better known as the “UCF seat” in the Florida Legislature. Since being appointed, he has introduced the Florida Competitive Workforce Act; acted as a voice for LGBT students and against bullying; fought for rights and benefits for same-sex military spouses; and uplifting the arts and cultural institutions in his district.

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Workforce nondiscrimination bill filed with bipartisan support

By : Staff Report
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The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) and Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo), has been filed in the Florida House of Representatives.

HB 239 “prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity or expression; defines terms; provides exceptions for constitutionally protected free exercise of religion,” according to the bill’s language.

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