HRC predicts anti-LGBT bills for Florida in 2016

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Tallahassee – The Human Rights Campaign predicts anti-LGBT legislation will be introduced in Florida during the 2016 state legislative session, which begins on Jan. 12. It’s part of the HRC’s preview 2016, a report released Jan. 8 on both pro-equality and anti-LGBT legislation at the state and local levels.

It’s a safe call for Florida, as two anti-gay bills have already been introduced. The Pastor Protection bill, filed by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, in August, purports to protect religious leaders from being forced to conduct same-sex weddings. The bill is unnecessary because religious leaders are already free from being forced to perform any sort of wedding ceremony at all that doesn’t align with their faith or personal convictions. HB 43 moved through the Civil Justice subcommittee and is now at the Judiciary Committee. A companion bill filed in the Florida Senate has not advanced.

The other anti-gay bill currently active in the Florida House is titled Protection of Religious Freedom and would allow doctors to refuse to treat gay people, adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples, and effectively any business to discriminate against gay people, as long as the business owner says it’s against their religious beliefs to do business with gay people.The bill wouldn’t greenlight discrimination against just gay people, either. The wording is broad enough that it lets any business discriminate against anyone for any reason at all – race, gender, disability, whatever – as long as the business owner says it’s against their religion. HB 401 is currently referred to the Civil Justice Subcommittee and does not at this time have a companion Senate bill.

The HRC predictions specify that Florida is likely to see both religious refusals and anti-transgender bills, but so far, no anti-transgender bills have been filed for 2016. In 2015, there was much debate over a “bathroom bill” that would have prohibited individuals from using public facilities that align with their gender identities, and instead have them use facilities based on their gender at birth. The bill died in committee.

The HRC also noted pro-equality campaigns.

“There are campaigns to amend existing state anti-discriminationlaws to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexualorientation and gender identity in many states, including… Florida..,” the report reads.

On the municipal level, the HRC specifically references the movement in Jacksonville to make their anti-discrimination laws LGBT-inclusive.

As of press time, three pro-equality bills have been filed in the Florida Legislature.

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act would shield Florida employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The bi-partisan bill has been attempted at least a dozen times in previous years but has always died in committee.

Florida House Representative David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, filed HB137, a bill that would prohibit gay conversion therapy for minors. And on Jan. 8, Richardson filed HB1151, which would update Florida statue language to strike words that are gender-specific. Specifically, the bill would iron out wrinkles regarding how same-sex parents names appear on their children’s birth certificates. According to a press release from Richardson’s office, Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, will file a companion bill in Florida’s Senate.

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