Nadine Smith

Florida Report Reveals Dramatic Shift Toward LGBT Equality

Filed By Nadine Smith | December 09, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: adoption rights, Employment non-discrimination, Equality Florida, LGBT equality, school safety, winning equality

Despite a hostile legislative climate, Florida has made dramatic progress in securing legal protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. A new report Winning Equality looks at the progress made in the state since Equality Florida formed in 1997.

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The report documents pro-equality successes in areas of workplace non-discrimination, family recognition, and school safety, while also highlighting that the organization has defeated anti-LGBT legislative efforts in every session over the past 13 years.

A great deal of work remains, but Floridians can be proud of the progress in our state over the past decade.This report demonstrates that while political winds may shift during an election cycle, the long-term trend in Florida is strongly in favor of fairness and equality for everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Repeal of the Anti-gay Adoption Ban - After 33 years, child welfare advocates are cheering the end to Florida's notorious anti-gay adoption ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by the 3rd District Court of Appeals in 2010. Florida had been the only state in the nation to enforce such a ban. Florida's Governor, Attorney General and Dept of Children and Families agreed not to appeal the Appeals Court decision to the State Supreme Court.
  • Banning Workplace Discrimination - The majority of Floridians are now protected via local human rights ordinances from discrimination in the workplace, housing and in public accommodations based on sexual orientation. More than half of those policies also include protections on the basis of gender identity and expression.
  • Providing Domestic Partner Benefits - There are 11 Florida cities and counties that provide domestic partnership benefits either through domestic partner registries or public employee benefit programs. These programs reach 1 out of every 3 Floridians.
  • Ensuring School Safety - The passage of Florida's anti-bullying law in 2008 has led schools across the state to adopt more effective anti-bullying policies which specifically address anti-gay harassment. Today, the majority of Florida students are protected from bullying based on sexual orientation. Increasingly, those policies now include protections based on gender identity and expression.
  • Engaging Business Leaders - Businesses have emerged as leading advocates for the passage of non-discrimination protections. Many of Florida's largest employers have adopted fully inclusive anti-discrimination policies and are active in touting the benefits to the economy of such protections via a program called Equality Means Business.

The report includes maps of Florida comparing the existence of LGBT legal protections in 1997 and today. In 1997, only South Florida and Hillsborough County provided legal protections of any kind to LGBT people. Today pro-LGBT protections and benefits exist throughout South, Central and Northern Florida.

Florida now leads the Southeastern United States in passing over 55 local policies outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, banning harassment of LGBT students, and providing domestic partnership benefits to our families.

The report credits coalition-building, supporting local partners, backing pro-equality candidates, key legal challenges and investing in public education for the past thirteen years as the ingredients for success.


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On a day of disappointing DADTl news, this is a good reminder that daily progress continues and we are moving closer and closer to equality even in the South.

Setting the record straight | December 10, 2010 1:59 AM

First things first - this report makes it seem as if all of these victories rest solely on the shoulders of Equality Florida – FALSE

WHY? Most of these victories have come about due to local and other statewide organizations in the state. Not to say Equality Florida had no role, just didn't want people to think it was only them.

Second - Adoption Ban was not repealed it was overturned by the courts, which should tell you that Equality Florida had absolutely nothing to do with it. Technically the law still exists on the books and I hope Equality Florida will try to change that; and I challenge them to prove otherwise. This is an ACLU victory as they are our statewide legal advocacy group, and as gracious as the ACLU is, they will tell you a number of organizations assisted, Equality Florida being one of them, but we know the truth.

Third - Banning workplace discrimination... last time I checked Florida is still one of the 39 states you can be fired from your job for being gay or transgender. And in a backhanded way Equality Florida is acknowledging that as they point it out in their own words, "The majority of Floridians are now protected via local human rights ordinances," key word being "local." I thought Equality Florida was a statewide organization focused on Tallahassee? Many of these local ordinances were passed by exactly that, local coalitions/organizations. I'm sure Equality Florida had their fingerprints on some, but I'm positive not all of them.

Fourth - again same as above, local ordinances have been passed and Florida is still one of the 40 plus states that failed at defeating its constitutional amendment fight in 2008.... Who's fault was that again?

Fifth - ensuring school safety... Hmmmm... I'm not sure what to say about this one except that there must be a distinction between a state law saying bullying is wrong and here are the penalties if you partake in that wrong; versus state law mandating that school districts have an "empty" policy that addresses bullying. By the way, we have the latter. (FYI – Miami-Dade has the best policy and program in place and not because of any political advocacy organization but instead due to the forward thinking of the Sexual Minorities Project [http://mhcms.dadeschools.net/bullying.asp] and Safe Schools South Florida.)

Sixth - Businesses don't have our back yet on nondiscrimination in the workplace. Oh sure they have nondiscrimination policies on the books, but most major businesses still fund the Florida Chamber of Commerce who is adamantly opposed to any legislation that puts more liability in the lap of companies... i.e. adding classes to the Civil Rights Act in employment protections... translation - companies don't want a bunch of gay and transgender people being added to the Civil Rights Act because their homophobic employees will get them in trouble through lawsuits.

In closing, it really seems that this report should have come from the collective body of local organizations. The way I read this is that local organizations have their act together and have been slowly pushing the needle and changing policy and the hearts and minds of their citizens. Meanwhile, Equality Giving (http://www.equalitygiving.org/States-of-Equality-and-Gay-Rights-Scorecard?page-version=0&date=20100902082052) still has Florida scraping the bottom of the barrel in comparison to the other states in the union. Well actually we are 23rd, but that is only because we scored major points with ACLU's victory in adoption.

Just setting the record straight!

Equality Florida has done a fine job on a shoestring budget over the years and deserves our support and donations. Let's not forget the other advocacy groups, like ACLU and Lambda Legal, that have helped out, plus the many grassroots ad-hoc groups. On the negative side, we have the crushing blow of Amendment 2 in 2008. If candidate Obama had spoken out against it during his many campaign visits to Florida, we might have been able to counter the clout of conservative preachers. All we needed was 40 percent, and we couldn't even muster that.

My adopted sister and her partner live in Florida, said partner being Florida born and raised, and the long and the short of it is that the lion's share of anti-LGBTI bigotry in Florida comes from the voting bloc of retirees. The political shift in Florida is the result of those hoary old bigots finally starting to shuffle off the mortal coil.