Republican who claims to be an ‘ally of the LGBT community’ files anti-LGBT bill

Florida senator Joe Gruters

A Republican state senator in Florida, who claims to be an “ally of the LGBT+ community”, has filed a bill that could lead to anti-LGBT+ employment discrimination.

According to the Herald Tribune, in 2017 and 2018 state senator and Florida GOP chairman Joe Gruters co-sponsored a bill to protect LGBT+ from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Now LGBT+ activists in Florida say he has filed a bill which would do exactly the opposite, something which Gruters denies.

Gruters told the publication: “For them to say any bill that I filed is anti-LGBTQ is preposterous and it upsets me… I’m an ally of the LGBTQ community.”

But SB 1126 could threaten hard-won municipal or county ordinances protecting LGBT+ employees in Florida from discrimination.

The bill aims to “prohibit a political subdivision from establishing, mandating, or otherwise requiring an employer to offer conditions of employment which are not otherwise required by state or federal law”.

In other words, a county, municipality or other public body, corporate or otherwise, would not be able to enforce conditions of employment beyond what is required by state or federal law, giving employers more power over conditions of employment.

There is no federal law, or state law in Florida, to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in employment, but according to Equality Florida, the organisation “has been successfully working with our local partners all over the state to ensure LGBT people are protected from discrimination at the local level”.

These local level protections would no longer be enforceable if SB 1126 became law.

There is a preliminary statement within the bill which states: “Whereas, nothing in this act is intended to alter any state law prohibiting employment discrimination or to affect any local ordinance, order, rule, or policy prohibiting employment discrimination.”

But Florida LGBT+ activists are calling for more than a “whereas clause” suggesting that their rights are protected.

Equality Florida said: “The Preemption of Employment Conditions bill threatens to roll back local employment nondiscrimination protections that currently cover nearly 13 million Floridians, which ensure Floridians won’t face employment discrimination for who they are or who they love.

“Everyone should be able to earn a living and provide for their families.”

SB 1126 was one of four anti-LGBT+ bills introduced on the same day in Florida, on the last day for submissions for the current legislative session.

The other bills include outlawing best practice gender-affirming healthcare and legalising traumatising conversion therapy again in areas of Florida that have banned it.

Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director for Equality Florida, said in a statement:  “This is the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.”

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