Tampa Bay Times Editorial – July 3, 2015

The Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was a victory worthy of nationwide celebration. But there is more work to be done to ensure fair treatment of all Americans. It is illogical that states can no longer ban gay marriages but gay residents still can be discriminated against in employment and housing in many parts of Florida and the rest of the nation. While local laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are steps in the right direction, Congress and the Florida Legislature should pass similar bans to ensure everyone is equally protected.

In both Washington and Florida, progress on this issue is stalled. The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a bill in 2013 banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the Republican-led House did not approve it. President Barack Obama issued an executive order last year banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in federal agencies and by federal contractors, but that protection does not extend beyond those situations. In the last two years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has won more than 200 cases involving gay or transgender people. But until there is a nationwide standard banning gender orientation and sexual identity discrimination in public and civic life, the existing patchwork of federal, state, and local laws is not sufficient.

In Florida, a statewide antidiscrimination bill never received even a subcommittee vote this year. Yet 22 other states ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Pinellas and Hillsborough are among 10 counties that have passed ordinances banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but that sort of jumbled approach leaves too many Floridians unprotected.

Public support for gay rights has arrived. A March 2013 poll by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service indicated that 73 percent of Floridians support legislation protecting gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 61 percent prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. There is no reason for the Legislature to keep avoiding the issue.

Legalizing same-sex marriage is a big win for the gay community, but it should not be the last victory. Congress should pass a federal ban against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, and the Florida Legislature should pass a similar ban. It makes no sense that gay couples can marry but could be denied a hotel room or a job based on their sexual orientation.

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