PRESS RELEASE: Record-Breaking Support for Florida Competitive Workforce Act
More than 70 Legislators Back Housing, Employment and Public Accommodations Protections for Florida LGBTQ Residents and Visitors
Tallahassee, Fla. –– This week the Florida Competitive Workforce Act cleared a historic milestone of support with the bipartisan cosponsorship of 73 legislators, the highest level of support for LGBTQ protections in state history. The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida’s Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (SB 430/HB 485) is sponsored by Senator Darryl Rouson (D - St. Petersburg) and Representatives Jennifer Webb (D - St. Petersburg) and Jackie Toledo (R - Tampa). Support is broad and diverse. Cosponsorship literally stretches across the length of our state, from Representative Alex Andrade (R - Pensacola) to Representative Holly Raschein (R - Key West). Beyond the Capitol, the business community and the faith community have also weighed in to support the legislation.
Advocates are left asking why the bill has not had a public hearing this session. “Floridians across party lines and across the state strongly support equal rights, and we are confident that this legislation would pass if leadership allowed a floor vote,” said Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer. “Governor DeSantis, Speaker Oliva, and President Galvano must let the state follow the will of Floridians and join the twenty other states that have these LGBTQ protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations.”
Numerous legislators have spoken in support of the bill:
Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee): “All Florida citizens deserve equal opportunity in the workforce. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act must be passed to ensure anti-discrimination measures protect 100 percent of our residents in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.”
Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola): “When we study best practices in business, we look to companies that are innovative, prosperous and attract the best-trained workforce. That’s why so many of the biggest job creators in the state have established nondiscrimination policies at their companies and support this bill. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act is pro-business.”
Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation): "Diversity makes our state stronger, we must ensure each and every Floridian is protected fully and equally. Every person deserves the most basic civil rights and protections. Denying these to the LGBTQ+ community – or anyone else – is wrong, and will not stand.”
Rep. Mike Caruso (R-Boca Raton): “The unwavering bipartisan support of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act reflects that the issue is nothing more than excellent public policy. It lends a strong message to businesses who are interested in expanding in Florida, or relocating to Florida, that their workforces will be afforded the same basic rights as all of their colleagues.”
Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Winter Park): “I want Florida to always be known for its diversity of people and opportunities. For that to continue, we need to adopt the Competitive Workforce Act.”
Rep. Joseph Geller (D-Dania Beach): “Nondiscrimination legislation increases the economic health of Florida by employing an accomplished and innovative labor force. Top businesses will better be able to entice and retain entry level and senior employees to Florida. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.”
Rep. Dianne Hart (D-Tampa): “With such strong bipartisan support among my fellow members in the Senate and House, it is time to update the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. Florida’s laws need to prioritize inclusiveness and demand equality for all of our residents.”
Rep. Al Jacquet (D-West Palm Beach): “Basic rights should be given to all residents of Florida. I am proud that the city of West Palm Beach has a nondiscrimination ordinance, but many other areas in the state do not. It is time for a uniform, statewide law that serves all Floridians.”
Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Hollywood): “Florida is one of 30 states without an all-inclusive nondiscrimination law that would protect the more than 536,000 LGBT citizens of Florida. It is overdue for our laws to represent the diverse population of the state.”
Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park): “The Florida Competitive Workforce Act will ensure that hardworking Floridians are protected from discrimination, and it will open businesses to all, leading us to build stronger community.”
Rep. Sam Killebrew (R-Winter Haven): “I stand with my fellow members to ensure the civil rights of every Floridian. There is no place for discrimination in the Sunshine State.”
Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point): “As a Broward County Commissioner, I strongly supported our Human Rights Ordinance to protect everyone in our workplace. As a State Representative, I will continue to protect all Floridians from any type of discrimination.”
Rep. Amy Mercado (D-Orlando): “Now more than ever, it’s time for lawmakers to show that the civil rights of all Floridians are unequivocally protected. Equal opportunity is obligatory for the economic and cultural health of our state.”
Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville): “Fortune 500 companies are in business to make a lucrative amount of money. Seeing as the majority of these companies have procedures in place to protect their LGBT employees from discrimination speaks volumes about why Florida must implement comparable protections by passing the CWA.”
Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg): “This is the civil rights issue of our time. Senate Bill 430 will make it clear to those looking to relocate to Florida that they will be given the same basic rights as everyone else. Workplace discrimination has no place in our state and the time has come for Florida legislators to embrace the Competitive Workforce Act.”
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando): “If the Florida Legislature is looking to recruit businesses like Amazon — at no cost to the taxpayer — all they have to do is pass a law that says LGBTQ people will be treated fairly and equally in our state in employment, housing and public accommodations. Other states already have this. It’s not a social experiment.”
Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston): “Florida runs the risk of a labor shortage if we don’t protect all of our residents. Top candidates expect equal employment opportunity in the workforce – we don’t want to lose these qualified employees to other states.”
Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando): “The City of Orlando and Orange County understand the only way to attract residents and visitors alike is to provide an environment where all Floridians can thrive. Orlando is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and I am proud that our city has an anti-discrimination ordinance in place. However, a consistent, statewide law that will benefit Florida economically is needed.”
Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa): “The Florida Competitive Workforce Act reflects best practices in hiring among Fortune 500 companies, 83 percent of which provide fully inclusive protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This legislation makes it clear that all Floridians deserve equal rights in employment, public housing and accommodations in order to thrive in a global marketplace.”
Rep. Clovis Watson, Jr. (D-Alachua): “Passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will constitute consistency and equality for employers and employees across the entire state. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. No one should have rights that no one else has.”
Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg): “As a newly elected member to the Florida Legislature, I am thrilled to lead this initiative in the House. With unprecedented support last year, particularly among freshmen members, I am confident that Florida will follow the 20 other states that already have similar comprehensive nondiscrimination laws in place. It’s the right thing to do.”
Congress is currently discussing similar comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation, the Equality Act. At a congressional Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday, U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (D - Palm Beach) stated, “I am proud to stand with the LGBTQ community and with an ever-increasing majority of Americans in support of full equality and truly equal protection for all.” Representative Deutch previously introduced nondiscrimination legislation as a Florida State Senator, and spoke to the need to ensure that such legislation includes equality for the transgender community.
Currently, 60% of the state’s population is protected by local nondiscrimination ordinances. But a state law will ensure protections exist throughout Florida. Floridians should not have to wait for federal action to protect those who live here or visit from discrimination. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act will send the message that our state is welcoming, inclusive and open to all.