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Following U.S. Senate Vote, Florida Lawmakers Rally For LGBT Protections

Equality Florida

Hours after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) cleared a crucial vote in the U.S. Senate, state lawmakers called for passage of a bill with similar protections for Florida's LGBT community.

Florida State Representatives Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) and Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) were among the lawmakers who rallied at the Florida State Capitol on Tuesday afternoon for passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, or FCWA.

Saunders and Raschien filed the bill, which would update the state's Civil Rights Act of 1992 to include protections against discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity, on October 31.

"I think it reflects this shift in public opinion that overwhelmingly supports these policies," said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group.

Smith said that while the bill isn't new, this is the first time it has been introduced with both strong bipartisan support and strong support from the state's business community.

"In the world of economic competitiveness and competing for innovators, having these types of policies is essential," she said.

Smith called Monday's cloture vote by the U.S. Senate on ENDA "a massive step" towards passage of federal protections, praising Democratic Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for his co-sponsorship of the bill.

"He really did his homework," she said of Nelson.

A final Senate vote is expected as soon as Wednesday, but U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has already said he does not support the bill as written, a signal it will likely not pass the lower chamber.

"Support is so strong that many people assume these protections already exist," said Smith. "Elected leaders who ignore that and only listen to the extreme wing of their party are going to be hurt by it."

Smith also commented favorably on news that the Florida National Guard will extend military benefits to same-sex spouses, saying that government shouldn't make life harder for service members and their loved ones.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickhdonges.

Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.