Liberal Clergy Lobby Tallahassee for LGBT Rights

By Claire Goforth

In Tallahassee last week, clergy from across Florida advocated for the “Competitive Workforce Act” which would protect LGBT people from housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination.

More than 20 ministers lobbied in Tallahassee and they represent a small but growing group of religious leaders supporting progressive causes, including LGBT equality, on the basis of scripture.

Led by Faith in Public Life, which defines itself as a “national network of nearly 50,000 clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice and the common good,” the religious leaders met with lawmakers and their aides, making the case for the “Competitive Workforce Act” with Bible verses and the teachings of Jesus. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and in the House by state Rep. Jackie Toldeo, R-Tampa, and state Rep. Jennifer Webb, D-Gulfport.

“We stand here not in spite of our faith but because of it,” said Rev. Joe Parramore of New Journey Ministries at a media event in support of the legislation.

The proposal has been kicking around the legislature for a decade; meanwhile, all of Florida’s major cities have passed municipal ordinances to the same effect including, most recently, Jacksonville in 2017.

Advocates say the state bill is needed to protect the remaining 40 percent of Floridians who are not protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

In addition to the usual support from LGBT individuals, liberal groups and members of the business community, more than 450 clergy from Florida have signed a letter urging the Legislature to pass the proposal.

Legally prohibiting discrimination against LGBTs is similarly widely supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, D-Orlando, noted that the bill has more cosponsors has than any other currently proposed legislation.

Advocates are confident it could become law if it gets a vote.

“If we can get it hearings … we can get it passed,” said Jon Harris Maurer of LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida.

The bill is currently stalled in the state House Civil Justice Committee chaired by state Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples.

Rommel did not return Florida Daily’s call asking if he intended to schedule the Competitive Workforce Act for hearing. The deadline is this week.


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