Although Broward County and other parts of Florida have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is still no statewide law offering this protection. As we have previously written, pending legislation known as the Competitive Workforce Act may soon change that.
Meanwhile, progress toward protecting GLBT rights in Florida can be seen in smaller but significant ways. Earlier this month, the board of trustees at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) amended the school's discrimination policy to include protections against sexual orientation discrimination. The protections will apply to both students and employees.
Except for Florida A&M, all other state universities have already included sexual orientation as a protected class in their non-discrimination policies. According to a report in the Sun-Sentinel, FAU has had an ambiguously worded policy on the books since 2006.
Rather than adding sexual orientation as a protected class in 2006, FAU instead included "any other basis protected by law." There is no state law protecting sexual orientation as a class, but Broward County and Palm Beach County have both passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The wording in the policy combined with the inconsistent state and local protections left many questions about whether or not sexual orientation was included in FAU's non-discrimination policy. Thankfully, that problem has been fixed and the ambiguity is now gone.
Advocates for reform say that there is still much work to be done. An FAU student government member said: "Although we're pleased with the changes thus far, there's still concern about including gender identity for transgender students as well."
Although ordinances offer some GLBT protections locally, this case highlights one of the many reasons why protections need to be passed statewide. If we truly wish to show a commitment to supporting GLBT rights, we must offer legal protections that can be enforced throughout Florida.
Source: Sun-Sentinel, "FAU adds protection for gay students, employees," Scott Travis, Nov. 16, 2011