A few days ago, the Florida State Legislature introduced House Bill 3 (HB3) which is a bill that bans local governments (city and town) from adopting regulations against businesses and “business entities.” While it doesn’t seem like it affects LGBT people very much, it is important to note that the state of Florida does not have any kind of statewide LGBT anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people in place. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed Executive Order 1910 reaffirming existing anti-discrimination laws but has chosen to continue to exclude LGBT people from protection against discrimination.

This means that HB3 could potentially be used to ban local municipalities from adopting ordinances that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in everything from housing, businesses, even sports teams. Currently local anti-discrimination ordinances cover roughly 60% of Florida citizens and HB3 would prevent local communities from adopting new ones or reaffirming existing ones. The move from DeSantis comes as a slap in the face to the LGBT communities in Florida, who are still healing after the devasting terrorist attack on the Pulse Night Club in 2016. After Pulse, DeSantis’ predecessor had committed but failed to adopt LGBT anti-discrimination protections and no action has been taken since then to protect LGBT Floridians.

“Equality Florida is deeply disappointed to see that LGBTQ employees and contractors have been left out of the Governor’s executive order,” said Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director for Equality Florida. “It’s hard to believe that Governor DeSantis and his staff are not aware of the LGBTQ communities call for these protections following the Pulse tragedy and therefore it is hard to interpret this as anything less than a purposeful omission. As Governors across the country establish these critical protections for LGBTQ families, this order draws a stark contrast. We look forward to a dialogue with Governor DeSantis about why LGBTQ employees have been omitted from this critical policy and how he plans to make sure that all Floridians, regardless of who they are or who they love, can be protected from discrimination.”

Athlete Ally has partnered with Equality Florida to help get some big-name support to sign on and to “help mobilize the athletic community” to call on DeSantis to protect LGBT Floridians from discrimination in Executive Order 1910. With Athlete Ally’s help, the Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Heat and Tampa Bay Rowdies have signed a joint statement of declaration with Equality Florida and Athlete Ally to call on DeSantis to include sexual orientation and gender identity in Executive Order 1910. The statement reads…

“As members of the Florida athletic community, we are committed to the values that bring us together as athletes and Floridians— namely, those of respect, inclusion and fairness for all. Our organization is deeply committed to upholding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to be protected from discrimination.

We share the concern of many who were disappointed to see that Governor Ron DeSantis’ issuance of an Executive Order related to state workers and discrimination excluded LGBTQ Floridians. In the wake of the tragic 2016 Pulse shooting which specifically targeted LGBTQ people and took 49 innocent lives, the need for codified protections has never been more clear. Polls show that nearly 75% of Floridians support fully inclusive laws to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Moreover, nearly 80% of conservative likely voters in Florida supported former Governor Rick Scott issuing an Executive Order that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We ask Governor DeSantis to stand on the right side of history by amending Executive Order 1910 to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. No Floridian should feel the sting of discrimination because of who they are or who they love.”

The show of support is built upon the foray of professional sports leagues and teams who are working to show they are more LGBT inclusive. Most major sports teams in the NHL, NFL, MLB, MLS, and NBA regularly hosts annual Pride Nights. In addition, several professional sports teams have sponsored LGBT sports events, most notably the 2017 and 2018 Gay Bowls.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are hosting an LGBT Pride Night on Friday, June 14th. Find more information about Equality Florida at www.eqfl.org and Athlete Ally at www.athleteally.org

By Dirk Smith