Florida employers launch campaign for statewide LGBT anti-discrimination law

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Florida employers, responding to rising public support, today unveiled Florida Competes, a campaign to persuade state legislators to update anti-discrimination laws.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, a coalition of business interests, is launching the grassroots effort for the passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a bipartisan legislation bolstering protections for gay and transgender individuals. If passed, the act would revise protections in the state’s current anti-discrimination regulations.

“While the coalition is engaging major Florida employers and building momentum within the business community,” said campaign manager Ashley Walker, “Florida Competes offers individuals an avenue to participate.”

Walker added there are a number of ways Floridians can help raise awareness of the Act, from signing the online petition to contributing time and resources.

As the legislative session approaches, Florida Competes will also set up organizers and volunteers in legislative districts throughout the state.  In addition to field efforts, the movement will also feature www.FLCompetes.org, a website for information on how individuals can get involved.

 “We want Florida to draw high paying jobs and top talent,” she said. “Passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act sends the message that we are ready for business, and we do not discriminate in our state.”

With the passage of an ordinance in Miami-Dade County on Dec. 2, 28 municipalities now provide anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people, covering more than half of Florida’s population. The campaign is pushing all Floridians to enjoy the same protection.

Although state law currently bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, there is no statewide protections for sexual orientation, gender identification and expression.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, made up of 21 major Florida employers, are backing the Competitive Workforce Act, which they say seeks to give Florida a competitive advantage.

Leading the group is Patrick Geraghty, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Florida Blue in Jacksonville; John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and Worldwide CIO of Tech Data Corporation in Clearwater; and Philip Dinkins, Senior Vice President of Cassidy Turley in Tampa.

Businesses as part of the coalition include AmericanAirlines Arena, Bilzin Sumberg, C1Bank, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, CSX, Darden, Florida Blue, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Haskell, HSN, Marriott, Miami HEAT, NextEra Energy, On Top of the World Communities, Raymond James, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Tech Data, University of North Florida, Walt Disney World Resorts, Wells Fargo and Winn Dixie.

Additional information on the Florida Competes campaign is at www.FLCompetes.org, on Facebook and Twitter.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.