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State lawmakers renew efforts to combat LGBT workplace discrimination

We've recently made remarkable strides here in Florida regarding the issue of workplace discrimination against gay and transgendered workers thanks largely to the efforts of local lawmakers. Indeed, 22 municipalities and 10 counties, which together account more than 50 percent of the state's population, have all passed local ordinances expressly protecting LGBT workers.

As encouraging as these efforts are, state law remains conspicuously silent on the issue, meaning workplace discrimination against LGBT workers is still technically legal in those parts of the state without an ordinance saying otherwise.

State Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) is looking to change this state of affairs, however, introducing the Competitive Workforce Act, which would prohibit employers across the state from firing someone on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Raschein, whose bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington), faces something of an uphill battle as similar measures introduced every session since 2010 have been defeated, failing to secure even a first committee hearing in either chamber.

Raschein nevertheless remains optimistic that this will be the year the state finally passes comprehensive LGBT workplace protections.

The reason?

She is couching the issue as being not just strictly LGBT, but also business-related. Specifically, she's urging her fellow lawmakers to consider that many of the nation's highly desirable employers and employees will continue to overlook Florida so long as there are no workplace measures in place to protect LBGT workers.

In support of this argument, she's helped form a coalition called Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce to advocate for her legislation. This veritable "who's who" of employers includes Walt Disney World, Office Depot, Marriott, Wells Fargo, Winn-Dixie and the Miami Heat, to name only a few.   

Raschein has also expressed a willingness to consider certain religious exemptions to the Competitive Workforce Act in order to make it more acceptable to the more conservative elements of her party base.

It remains to be seen if the January 2016 will be the year Florida enacts LGBT workplace protection. Stay tuned for updates ...

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