Equality Florida Responds To Governor Scott's Statement on LGBTQ Protections For State Employees
ORLANDO, FL — Equality Florida publicly called on Governor Rick Scott to keep his promise to the LGBTQ community by issuing an executive order protecting state employees and government contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In response, Governor Scott’s press secretary released a confounding statement about the Scott administration’s position on policies protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination:
"Florida is a state that doesn't tolerate discrimination of any form. In accordance with federal guidelines, Florida state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way. Our office will continue to review ways we can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind."
Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director Hannah Willard released the following statement in response:
“The Governor’s latest statement raises even more questions about his actions to eliminate discrimination and his commitment to make good on a promise to LGBTQ Floridians after the Pulse massacre. State employees and government contractors deserve a written and uniform policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which can only happen through executive order.
The Governor's statement appears to reference existing guidelines that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. If such a written policy already exists, the Governor’s office should provide the media and the public with documentation. State employees especially should be made aware of protections afforded to them should such a policy exist.
If the Governor is merely referencing EEOC guidelines, which clearly state that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are sex discrimination and are prohibited under Title VII, he should make that clear. Furthermore, he should immediately sign an executive order to formally demonstrate his intention to follow these guidelines and directing businesses that contract with the state to do so as well. Importantly, the EEOC and the 11th Circuit Court have provided even more support for prohibiting discrimination under Title VII on the basis of gender identity or expression, which the governor's statement failed to mention, than on the basis of sexual orientation, though courts have increasingly ruled in favor of prohibiting both under the definition of sex discrimination. The Governor cannot pick and choose which guidelines to follow and it is critical he ensure that the entire LGBTQ community is fully protected from discrimination by including both sexual orientation and gender identity in his executive order.
Nowhere in this written statement, issued after more than a week of criticism, does the Governor deny his promise of executive action, nor does he acknowledge the need for gender identity protections or for setting a standard for government contractors. Obfuscation and broken promises are not leadership. We would love to take the Governor’s office up on their commitment to continue reviewing further actions they can take to eliminate discrimination in Florida. Floridians deserve answers and an Executive Order that provides basic legal protections for all Floridians."