Despite the thriving LGBT community in South Florida, the state as a whole still lacks important protections for LGBT individuals against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Same-sex marriage was only legalized in Florida due to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. And if anti-discrimination protections are to be implemented statewide, it may again be due to federal intervention.
In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in what may be a landmark case. The Court ruling could finally decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
Title VII of the CRA bans discrimination on the basis of sex, which was a major step forward for women in America. But in recent decades, there has been disagreement among federal appellate courts on whether Title VII also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Rulings have been mixed, and a definitive answer is long overdue.
At the same time, federal legislators are considering a bill that could extend protections regardless of what the Supreme Court decides. The “Equality Act” would explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, given the highly divisive political environment we are currently in, it is not clear whether the Equality Act could even pass both houses.
It is simply unacceptable that we should still be waiting for LGBT protections in Florida in 2019 (not to mention the many other states which also lack such protections). Hopefully, the U.S. Supreme Court will make the responsible, humane choice to fully recognize the civil rights of all Americans.