The civil rights organization Equality Florida dropped off nearly 3,000 signed petitions to Gov. Rick Scott’s office in the Capitol on Monday, calling on Scott to sign an executive order banning discrimination against LGBTQ state employees.
“The governor has said that Florida doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation,” says Jon Harris Mauer, public policy director for Equality Florida, which aims to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“But in two years, his administration has not been able to point to a Florida law that expressly offers that protection. The petition that we are seeking would fix that,” Mauer says.
The group’s actions come as Scott’s term as governor will soon end.
The issue goes back to the summer of 2016, shortly after 49 people were shot and killed by a gunman at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Representatives from Equality Florida met with Scott’s staff after the mass shooting, and the group left believing Scott would establish an executive order banning discrimination against state employees who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.
The Scott administration has not followed through on that commitment, Equality Florida says, prompting the organization to pursue a state rule that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The deadline to act on such a rule expires a week from next Thursday, Nov 1.
Brandon Wolf was at Pulse on the night of the shooting attack in June of 2016. At a press conference held in the Capitol prior to the delivery of the petitions to Scott’s office, Wolf says that he wasn’t shocked that “people in power lie.”
What is shocking, he says, is that nearly two-and-half years removed from the deadly shooting spread in Orlando, Scott has yet to act on the alleged promise.
“What shocks me is that we requested an executive order be signed,” Wolf says. “We requested he take two minutes out of his day to sign a piece of paper protecting the people who go to work every single day for the people of this state, and he couldn’t find the time.”
Dr. Petra Doan, a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University, invoked the historical legacy of the Johns Committee in saying why the executive order was needed.
The Johns Committee was created by the state Legislature in 1955, and for the next nine years sought to remove gays from Florida’s state universities. As a result of their efforts, more than 200 gay and lesbian students and teachers were expelled or fired.
Governor Scott’s office repeated to the Phoenix earlier this month that the state doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any form. Their statement said nothing about signing the ordinance.
“In accordance with federal law and guidelines, Florida state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way,” says McKinley Lewis, a spokesman for the governor’s office.