Representative Kelly Skidmore, at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, has again filed legislation to amend Florida's civil rights laws to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The bill would update the Florida Civil Rights Act and Florida Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy and familial status.
Check out the web page for the bill, which provides a link to the complete text of the bill as well as an updated list of co-sponsors. Said Representative Skidmore of the bill:
All Floridians should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for their families without fear of being unfairly fired or denied housing for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance or their ability to maintain their homes.
More information after the jump:
From the Palm Beach Human Rights Council:
To encourage Floridians to share in the American dream, Florida lawmakers enacted the Florida Civil Rights Act and Florida's Fair Housing Act. Over the years, the laws have been updated to include additional protected classes. As United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote for the Court in Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620:
Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply.
The Florida Civil Rights Act currently covers race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, Florida's Fair Housing Act covers race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, familial status or religion.
The Skidmore Civil Rights Act will update Florida's laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations to cover race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, familial status or marital status.
1. The Skidmore Civil Rights Bill ensures that both laws (a) include both marital status and familial status and (b) update the term "handicap" with "disability."
2. Pregnancy is included to implement a court decision which recognized that the Florida Civil Rights Act also covers pregnancy. See, Carsillo v. City of Lake Worth, Case No. 4D07-4236 (Fla. 4th DCA December 3, 2008).
3. Since 2003, every state that has passed comprehensive civil rights legislation has included both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
4. The Skidmore Civil Rights Bill narrowly limits the definition of "sexual orientation" to "an individual's actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality." The definition of "gender identity or expression" is limited to "a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual's assigned sex at birth".
Contrary to popular belief, it is still legal in many areas of Florida to fire someone from his job -- or deny him a place to live -- solely because he is gay. For example, the Naples News reported in December, 2008 that after almost two years on the job, a gas station manager in Lee County was fired for informing his boss about anti-gay comments made by a co-worker.
Since 1990, several Florida counties and cities have taken steps to address similar problems by amending their fair employment and housing laws to cover "sexual orientation" and/or "gender identity or expression". These laws are in effect in Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties, as well as in the cities of Gulfport, Gainesville, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach, Orlando, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa and West Palm Beach.
Similarly, employers throughout America have taken steps to support fairness in the workplace. More than 90% of the Fortune 500 companies have written policies prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and more than one-third also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
Recent polling data shows that Floridians believe gays and lesbians should have equal rights in employment, housing, and public accommodations, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article published on November 16, 2008.
When more than 1,000 Florida voters were asked whether homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else to housing, job opportunities and public accommodations, 89% responded "yes."
Political party identification had little statistical impact on the results. 87% of Republicans, 90% of Democrats and 93% of Independents all support equal rights for gay and lesbian Floridians.
Age and gender also have no impact on support of equal rights. 88% of Florida voters 55 and over support equal rights for gay men and lesbians, as do 90% under age 55. Similarly, 90% of women and 88% of men are supportive.
Floridians' sense of fairness is mirrored across America. According to nationwide polls conducted annually for the past quarter century by the Gallup Organization, 89% of all Americans 18 years or older believe that gay men and lesbians should have equal employment rights. This percentage has been constant since 2004.
Across the nation, twenty states1 and the District of Columbia have fair employment and/or housing laws covering sexual orientation. The most recent thirteen of these states to enact such laws2 and the District of Columbia also have included gender identity or expression.
As a result of state and local laws, 52% of the U.S. population now lives in jurisdictions protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination. 37% of the U.S. population now lives in jurisdictions which also protect individuals based on their gender identity and/or expression.
Please urge your state representative to support the Skidmore Civil Rights Bill.
1: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
2: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.