Florida’s new governor wasted no time in getting on the wrong side of the LGBTQ community.
On his very first day in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order affirming his administration would not discriminate on the basis of characteristics like race and sex in hiring. The pledge reaffirmed existing protections under Executive Order 11-04, which was signed by former governor Rick Scott.
The order was titled “Reaffirming Commitment to Diversity in Government,” borrowing the name of Executive Order 11-04.
There was one thing, however, missing from the governor’s so-called diversity pledge: LGBTQ people. The order does not prohibit discriminatory bias on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in either state agencies or government contracting.
Equality Florida took immediate notice of the snub.
In a statement, the state’s largest LGBTQ group said it is “deeply disappointed to see that LGBTQ employees and contractors” were left out of the order.
“It’s hard to believe that Governor DeSantis and his staff are not aware of the LGBTQ communities’ call for these protections following the Pulse tragedy and therefore it is hard to interpret this as anything less than a purposeful omission,” added Joe Saunders, its political director.
The omission is particularly glaring after his predecessor pledged to pass a nondiscrimination order following the death of 49 people at an Orlando gay bar.
Following the June 2016 tragedy, Scott is alleged to have offered his support for inclusive LGBTQ protections in government hiring during closed-door meetings with advocacy groups like Equality Florida. The Republican, who was recently elected to the U.S. Senate, failed to follow through on that promise before leaving office.
INTO reached out to DeSantis to inquire whether the governor would push for LGBTQ protections in the future. His office did not respond before publication time.
If the conservative politician does introduce a pro-LGBTQ order, it would be a surprise to those familiar with his record in U.S. Congress. In 2016, he scored a zero percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Index—its lowest score.
That very same year DeSantis voted against an amendment to a defense spending bill which would have forbid federal contractors who discriminate against LGBTQ people from receiving government funding. The provision was defeated by a one-vote margin as Democrats reportedly shouted: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
The former Jacksonville representative also vowed to veto bathroom and locker room protections for transgender students if elected governor.
Meanwhile, DeSantis has offered a mixed message on LGBTQ nondiscrimination. In response to a question during the 2018 governor’s race as to whether he would sign an inclusive order on government hiring, he said he doesn’t “want any discrimination in Florida” but also expressed support for so-called “religious liberty.”
“I want people to be able to live their life—whether you are gay but also whether you are religious,” he claimed. “I think you should be able to do that. I don’t want them discriminated against as well.”
“We’ve got a big, diverse state and that is just the way it is,” DeSantis added.
Equality Florida noted that DeSantis’ refusal to fully support pro-LGBTQ protections “draws a stark contrast” with recent actions from other governors. Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers both signed nondiscrimination orders following their inauguration; Ohio’s John Kasich did so before leaving office in December.
Meanwhile, Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly has vowed to reinstate protections for LGBTQ state employees after she takes office on Monday. Those safeguards were nixed by former governor Sam Brownback in 2015.
LGBTQ advocates called for a meeting with DeSantis to ensure his administration does not repeat the alleged failures of the previous one.
“We look forward to a dialogue with Governor DeSantis about why LGBTQ employees have been omitted from this critical policy and how he plans to make sure that all Floridians, regardless of who they are or who they love, can be protected from discrimination,” Saunders said in the press release.
During his Tuesday swearing-in ceremony, DeSantis did not address LGBTQ rights.
Instead, the Republican stressed the need for limited government and to appoint Florida Supreme Court justices who won’t “legislate from the bench.” He also took aim at sanctuary cities, which he claimed “[incentivize] illegal immigration” and “[promote] lawlessness.”
During the midterm race, DeSantis infamously used the word “monkey” in reference to his black opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum.
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