A ban on discrimination against the LGBT community failed in a Senate panel last week. If passed, the bill (SB 120) would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida’s civil rights laws.
While the group supporting the bill was made up of both Republicans and Democrats, those opposing it were all Republicans. It seems these resistant politicians are content to leave an entire group of people unprotected and refuse to continue the monumental progress made over the past year.
The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June. However, that ruling did not extend extra protection to those it supports. Unfortunately, Carol can marry Susan on Saturday and get fired from her job for it on Monday.
This bill, known as the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act,” would have prevented retail, employment and other forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Passing this ban should have been a no-brainer. If a group of people’s rights are being violated, they should be protected. However, it faced severe opposition from some of our tactlessly prejudiced senators.
It’s ironic that the Republican senators are the ones refusing to grant rights to their fellow citizens given that conservatives claim to value their personal rights more than any other Americans.
These discriminatory senators masqueraded their opposition under the pretense they were looking out for the best interests of Floridians as a whole. They claimed they were concerned about transgender Floridians, and that male predators would pose as women in order to legally infiltrate women’s facilities.
Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, stated passing the bill “could turn into a lot of weirdos doing weird things in public bathrooms, with men or women.”
According to that logic, the painted symbol of a woman on the door must have always kept perverted men from entering women’s bathrooms.
Needless to say, this argument is completely ridiculous. If a warped person wants to do foul deeds in public, they will — regardless of what socially proctored rules are in place.
No one, however, is going to go through the costs and trials of altering their gender to get a peek at a woman on the loo. The court is insulting every transgender person in the U.S. by refusing to respect gender identity.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not something people choose, and it is time people stop having to pay for their identity. Florida’s existing civil rights laws protect citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.
Our senators need to realize they are failing at their duty by refusing to look after the rights of the LGBT community. How is it constitutional for someone to lose their job because of whom they love? Why are people who were born the wrong gender forced to spend their lives using public facilities they don’t belong in?
Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, plans to reintroduce the bill next year. Hopefully, next time the senators will examine the issue with a more open mind.
“I think you see the movement changing and just as civil rights generally takes some time to move,” Abruzzo said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “Ultimately, this will not be an issue one day because this will be the law of the land in Florida.”
Until that time, however, the LGBT community will apparently have to continue fighting tooth and nail for civil rights in this appallingly heteronormative world.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.