Advocates call out Rick Scott for failing to sign LGBTQ anti-discrimination order after Pulse

click to enlarge Advocates call out Rick Scott for failing to sign  LGBTQ anti-discrimination order after Pulse
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
A year after a gunman targeted the gay nightclub Pulse on "Latin Night" and murdered 49 people, LGBTQ advocates say Gov. Rick Scott broke his promise by failing to sign an order that would protect state employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Leaders with Equality Florida and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith say in the days following the mass shooting, they met privately with Scott's staff to ask the governor to sign an executive order banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination against state hires. The Orlando Democrat, who was a lobbyist with Equality Florida before he was elected, said the governor's team promised they would take action.

But months after one of the worst hate crimes against LGBTQ people, Scott hasn't done squat except for proclaiming June 12 as "Pulse Remembrance Day" and acknowledging the attack was directed at the "LGBTQ and Hispanic" communities. And even that has been hard to do for him. In his remarks to the Florida Legislature earlier this year, he highlighted the Pulse attack as a part of his speech, but failed to mention that Pulse was a gay club or that the majority of victims were LGBTQ Latinxs.

"After a year of back and forth with the governor’s office, it is clear he has no intention of keeping his promise to the LGBTQ community," says Hannah Willard, public policy director of Equality Florida, in a statement. "We hoped Governor Scott would finally take action to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination after the worst mass shooting in our history, but he has failed to do so."

At a panel for the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, Smith said he is "frustrated" with the political landscape in Florida after Pulse.

"At minimum, one would think, after the worst hate crime against LGBTQ people in our country's history at Pulse, that Republican leaders in Tallahassee in the very least would send a message that discrimination against LGBTQ people in Florida will not be tolerated," Smith said. "And by sending that message, they have one task, which is to update the Florida Civil Rights Act. … In the state of Florida, it is legal to be fired from your job for being LGBTQ. It is legal to deny someone housing because of their LGBTQ identity in Florida."

Smith said he hoped an executive order from Scott protecting state employees from anti-LGBTQ discrimination would send a powerful message to other Florida lawmakers to follow suit with a broader anti-discrimination measure for the entire LGBTQ community.

"What has he done for us?" Smith asked at the panel. "What has he done to send a message that Florida is a place that does not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ people? We know the answer – He's done nothing and he should be held accountable."

Orlando Weekly reached out to the governor's office for a comment but did not receive one by press time. We'll update this blog if we receive a response.

UPDATE: Gov. Rick Scott's office spokesperson Lauren Schenone sent a statement in response to advocates who say the governor broke his promise to pass an anti-discrimination order protecting LGBTQ state employees.

"Florida is a state that does not tolerate discrimination of any form," the statement says. "In accordance with federal guidelines, Florida state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way. Our office will continue to review ways we can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind."

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