Democratic Lawmaker Says Florida Gov. Scott Used Zika, Hurricane as Excuses to Not Sign Promised LGBT Protections


Activists Say Rick Scott Promised an Executive Order After Pulse. It's Been a Year, but No Action.

A Democratic state lawmaker is blasting Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, for what he says is a "broken promise" to enact protections for the LGBT community. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, who formerly worked as a governmental affairs manager for the LGBT civil rights group Equality Florida, says after the terror attack on Orlando's Pulse the governor promised to protect LGBT people. Now, Rep. Guillermo-Smith says the governor has reneged on the promise of a nondiscrimination order, while his office offered multiple excuses for not taking action to protect LGBT people - including the Zika outbreak.

"We were given every indication by the Governor's Office that they would get this done," Guillermo-Smith told WFTV. "After weeks and months and months of delays, we realized this had now become a broken promise."

"The excuses that were given were all over the map," the Democratic lawmaker says. "From Zika to the hurricane from last October."

The Tampa Bay Times adds that "Smith said that assurances were made in private conversations with Scott's then-Chief of Staff Kim McDougall and legislative affairs director Kevin Reilly. Smith provided emails to the Times/Herald that reference those meetings and a series of follow-up conversations that lasted for months."

After a gunman opened fire in the nightclub and killed 49 people — most of them LGBTQ and Latino — Equality Florida ratcheted up calls for the governor to sign an order. They even provided draft language modeled after a similar rule in effect in Jacksonville, Smith said.

The Times adds the governor's office "did not dispute the account that a promise had been made to LGBTQ rights activists. A spokeswoman, Lauren Schenone, said the state 'doesn't tolerate discrimination in any form.'"

But that's just lip service. Without an executive order, no lawsuit or formal complaint can be filed, Guillermo-Smith says.

"The governor at this point has failed to lead and doesn't have the courage to actually take action on behalf of the 49 people who were murdered in this state," Guillermo-Smith charges. "The governor is the governor. It's on his shoulders."

The Florida legislature has largely ignored the LGBT community. A nondiscrimination ordinance has had just one hearing in more than ten years, the Times reports.

Equality Florida has been pushing for broader protections for the LGBTQ community in Florida, including a law that would outlaw discrimination in housing, hiring and public accommodations. Right now in Florida, it is legal to fire, refuse to rent to or decline to serve people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

"With the simple stroke of a pen, the Governor could demonstrate his commitment to combatting discrimination of any kind and ensuring that Florida is a place that welcomes and respects everybody, including members of the LGBTQ community," Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said in a statement

Governor Scott was first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He cannot run in 2018 but after not serving for one term could run again.

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Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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