Activists, political leaders criticize Scott on LGBTQ issues

Governor hasn't followed through on promise after Pulse, advocates say

By Jake Stofan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Officials with Equality Florida and the Florida Democratic Party are criticizing Gov. Rick Scott for failing to issue an executive order protecting LGBTQ individuals from employment and housing discrimination.

Leon County Democratic Party Chairman Andy Janecek said the Legislature as a whole has failed the LGBTQ community when it comes to protecting employment rights.

“In Florida, aside from some county protections, there's no law that protects you if you go to work the next day and you place a picture of your new partner or your wedding on your desk, your employer can terminate you for that very reason in Florida," Janecek said. "That is still allowed and that's unacceptable.”

Activists said they had an open dialogue with the governor's staff in the wake of the Pulse Night Club shooting and were assured Scott would take action on the issue.

Now, more than a year later, there hasn’t been any movement on it, they said.

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that took the life of his close friend, said that even in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, little to no progress has been made in the state.

“If somebody out there in the private sector didn't realize that I identified as LGBTQ, they could watch this interview, and I could lose my job," Wolf said. "I could lose my home. I could be denied access to public accommodations. That is appalling.”

Florida law does not protect LGBTQ individuals from employment discrimination.

Scott's office released a statement Thursday in response to the critics:

“Florida is a state that does not 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.”

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Winter Park, said Scott’s statement isn’t backed up by solid legislation or policy.

“It requires explanation. It requires proof, and he needs to answer why he has not delivered on the executive order that was promised," Smith said.

At least 11 counties and 33 cities in Florida have passed local ordinances offering employment protections to LGBTQ individuals in both the private and public sector. Duval County passed such protection with its expanded Human Rights Ordinance in February.

Twenty states have also adopted policies to protect the LGBTQ community from employment and housing discrimination.

The lack of explicit language in Florida policy means traditional routes of discrimination protection don’t exist for LGBTQ state employees, but civil suits may be filed against an employer if a person were terminated due to their sexual orientation under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines.

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