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.
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.