January 18. 2019
LGBTQ leaders unite in lauding a bi-partisan approach
to passing the Florida Inclusion Workplace Act (FIWA)
January 22, 2019
(Tallahassee, Florida) Florida State Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) introduced legislation this afternoon to protect LGBTQ Floridians from discrimination in the workplace.
The Florida Inclusion Workforce Act (FIWA) focuses on ensuring that Florida will be able to retain the best talent in its workforce by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida's Civil Rights Act, helping to strengthen Florida's economic future.
Senator Gruters introduced the bill in cooperation with SAVE Florida and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, with the participation of Translatina and Conservatives on the Right of Equality. Just last week, Gruters was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
"Senator Gruters' bill is sharply focused on the key economic discrimination faced by LGBTQ Floridians -- discrimination in the workplace," said retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC). "Achieving this first step will open the door, enabling us to move forward to protect our community in every part of Florida and in every area of our lives."
"Thanks to the efforts of Senator Joe Gruters, the LGBTQ community has a new champion in the Florida Senate," said Tony Lima, Executive Director of SAVE Florida. "Protecting LGBTQ workers from discrimination will take a bi-partisan effort. Years and years of partisan attacks have killed any chance of success for a comprehensive non-discrimination bill in Tallahassee -- until now."
"With Senator Gruters' leadership, there is finally a real opportunity to enact these much-needed workplace protections," Lima added.
Legislation to protect Florida's gay community from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations was first introduced in 2007 by then-State Senator/now-Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) at the request of PBCHRC.
In 2008, working closely with then-State Senator Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), Deutch garnered bipartisan support and the bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee. That vote on the Deutch-Atwater legislation marked the only time a gay rights bill moved forward in the Florida Legislature.
When it became obvious in 2010, that the bill was going to be dead on arrival, PBCHRC passed the baton to Equality Florida.The organization rebranded the bill the Competitive Workforce Act and unsuccessfully lobbied for its passage for the 9 legislative sessions. The bill never was heard in the Florida House of Representatives and the one time it was heard by a Florida Senate committee, it failed to pass.
"For the past decade, passing protections for the LGBTQ community was not made a legislative priority," said former State Representative David Richardson (D-Miami Beach). "Continuing to rely on a failed strategy -- and a bill that has floundered for years -- no longer makes sense."
"Policy change is often incremental," acknowledged Richardson. "I applaud Senator Gruters' for his fresh approach which is fully inclusive of the LGBT community."
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The organization promotes equality, through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation, and community outreach.
About Save Florida
SAVE Florida is a bi-partisan initiative designed to ensure protections for the LGBTQ community in the workforce, public services, and accommodations in partnership with the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Translatina and Conservatives on the Right of Equality.