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Activists Demand Florida Gov. Rick Scott Uphold Promise to Ban Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination

Activists delivered more than 3,000 letters on Monday urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott to keep his promise to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination at the state level.

Representatives from Equality Florida joined former state government workers and Pulse survivors to hand-deliver the letters to the Florida State Capitol. Jon Harris Maurer, the public policy director for Equality Florida, claimed Scott “has done nothing to protect the LGBTQ community” since the June 2016 shooting at a gay bar in Orlando.

“Gov. Scott has said that state employees should not be discriminated against in any way,” claimed Harris Maurer in a statement. “Words are not enough. We want action.”

Scott allegedly expressed his support for statewide nondiscrimination after 49 people were gunned down at Pulse Nightclub two years ago. The conservative reportedly agreed issuing an order to protect queer and trans workers was “important” in a meeting with LGBTQ advocates days after the attack.

This was an issue they believed could move forward and if there was any problem, any concerns, they would let us know,” Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith told the Daytona Beach News-Journal last year.

Scott has still not delivered a year later, advocates say.

Time is running out for the governor to make good on his alleged promise. Equality Florida filed a “Petition for Rulemaking” on Oct. 1 requesting that Scott enact an executive order protecting LGBTQ workers employed by the state government. Given the 30-day deadline to respond, he has just over a week to reply.

Currently, Florida is one of 30 states that lacks fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections at the statewide level. That means LGBTQ workers can be fired or denied employment based solely on who they are or how they love.

The activists who gathered at the capitol building on Monday say LGBTQ-inclusive protections are necessary to ensure Florida attracts the best and brightest.

“For our state workers to do their best serving the people of Florida every day, they need to be focused on their job and not worried about being fired or held back for being LGBTQ,” said former state employee Barry Monroe in a statement provided to INTO.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

However, his team has previously claimed that taking further action to protect LGBTQ workers is not necessary because they are already covered by federal policy. In a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, Press Secretary Lauren Schenone added that the administration “doesn’t tolerate discrimination in any form.”

Advocates say that assertion misrepresents the facts. While Obama enacted a 2014 executive order prohibiting bias against LGBTQ federal employees, that does not cover workers employed at the state government level.

The Trump administration has sought to erode those protections by arguing that federal civil rights law doesn’t protect gay and lesbian people in employment.

Critics argue Scott is punting on the issue in order to avoid alienating his Republican base amid a heated battle for the U.S. Senate. Scott, who is term-limited from seeking re-election to the governor’s seat, trails Democratic challenger Bill Nelson by an estimated 2.4 points.

In an email to INTO, Smith claimed Scott should “have no problem showing everyone the written guidelines he has provided staff to ensure compliance” if he truly believes those protections exist.

“That is why we have filed this administrative petition,” she said. “No more vague words. We want a clear policy.”

This isn’t the first time that Scott has been criticized for his alleged failure to stand up for queer and trans people. It took the governor two days after the Pulse shooting to mention that the victims were primarily LGBTQ.

Although the conservative wore a maroon ribbon following the Parkland shooting, many alleged he did not do the same after Pulse. Scott’s office said he did wear a rainbow pin to commemorate the tragedy’s one-year anniversary. But according to the Orlando Sentinel, videos and photos taken on June 12, 2017 do not validate that claim.

Scott also defended Florida’s ban on marriage equality and fought adoption by same-sex couples.

Advocates say that now is the time for Scott to correct his poor record on LGBTQ rights. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently drafting a memo that would define gender as immutable and determined at birth.

If adopted, it would effectively erase trans people from federal policy like Title IX.

Brandon Wolf, one of the survivors of Pulse, said Scott must send a message to LGBTQ Floridians that — unlike the Trump administration — their state does not consider them second-class citizens.

“What shocks me in 2018 is that I am standing here in the Florida State Capitol, begging my governor to treat us like first-class citizens while the Trump Administration tries to erase trans people all together,” Wolf said in a statement provided to INTO. “Since June 12, 2016, we’ve had one mantra and that is #HonorThemWithAction. Not words, not delay tactics, not excuses, not empty promises.”

“Time is running out for Governor Scott to do something,” he added.

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