The number of hours that Florida Governor Rick Scott waited to acknowledge the LGBT community after the Pulse nightclub massacre, a year ago today, nearly matched the death toll in Orlando that night: 49. So it’s not too surprising that his administration hasn’t done much to improve Florida’s LGBT-rights track record in the 12 months since.
But activist groups like Equality Florida are trying to change that. According to the nonprofit’s public policy director, Hannah Willard, some 60% of Floridians are now covered by a patchwork of local and municipal ordinances offering LGBT anti-discrimination protections in employment and hiring, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. Meanwhile, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), one of several similar bills pending in Tallahassee, would extend those protections statewide by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida’s existing civil rights law.
At the close of the last legislative session in May, GOP leadership blocked the bill from getting a hearing. That’s all the more frustrating to supporters, says Willard, because it “had historic support in both chambers, just shy of a majority”; 44% of the legislature signed onto the FCWA as cosponsors, including record numbers of Republicans. Meanwhile, hundreds of businesses that operate in the state—including AT&T, Marriott, Wells Fargo, and the Miami Heat—have voiced their support, “because they know that diversity and inclusion is good for business,” says Willard.
While a spokesperson for Scott didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the bill, his office issued a public proclamation on Friday declaring today Pulse Remembrance Day and calling for a moment of silence at 9 a.m.
“This past year we didn’t see the kinds of anti-LGBTQ legislation that we have in the past,” Willard points out. “We didn’t see a trans bathroom bill. We didn’t see a nasty religious-freedom, license-to-discriminate piece of legislation. That tells me that the legislative leadership understands that there’s no appetite for bigotry in the state of Florida. But they’ve decided to avoid this very proactive and pro-LGBTQ bill because they think that will be wiser.”
“The problem,” she adds, “is that inaction is not neutral.” LGBT Americans have had to learn that the hard way for decades.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that 34% of the Florida state legislature cosponsored the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. That figure is 44%.