Mid-Session Update on 2020 Legislative Priorities

We’ve now passed the midpoint of the 2020 Legislative Session in Tallahassee and, with a fantastic Lobby Days at the Capitol under our belts, there are some early successes, remaining threats, and clear missed opportunities by the GOP leadership blocking movement on good legislation.   We have defeated or amended 5 of the 8 anti-LGBTQ bills discussed at the start of session--but we’ve got a way to go, and nothing is truly settled until the final day of session!    

 

VICTORIES!

OPPOSE HB 1365/SB 1864 (Rep. Sabatini, Sen. Baxley):  Defeating the Transgender Youth Medical Care Ban was our top priority.  The bill would subject doctors to up to 15 years in prison simply for treating transgender youth with best medical practices.  Transgender youth are some of our community’s most vulnerable, and politicians shouldn’t be deciding what care is in a patient’s best interest.  

  • If you only watch one bit of testimony this Session, watch Rep. Amy Mercado defend her transgender daugther against this horrible bill. National, state, and local partners came together for an astounding show of force to defeat this bill.  Our team overwhelmingly outnumbered our opponents, with speaker after speaker sharing compelling personal stories and our experts debunking our opponents’ bad science and transphobia.  It's no stretch to say that the colossal failure of this bill in that workshop has undermined efforts for similar legislation around the country. We couldn't be more proud!

OPPOSE HB 3/SB 1336 (Rep. M. Grant, Sen. Perry): Licensing Preemption would have originally banned ban local governments from establishing critical protections against conversion therapy and undo the 21 existing local ordinances protecting against conversion therapy on vulnerable LGBTQ youth. Local governments must be able to protect residents’ health and welfare. 

  • Equality Florida emphasized the LGBTQ community’s concerns about this bill and the bill sponsors in the House and Senate ultimately accepted an amendment to clearly ensure the legislation would not roll back critical protections against conversion therapy! 

SUPPORT HB 427/SB 626 (Rep. Duran, Sen. Pizzo): HIV Modernization brings Florida’s outdated HIV statutes into alignment with decades of advances in HIV prevention science and can improve public health for all.  Laws that criminalize living with HIV discourage testing, increase stigma, and support new transmissions. 

  • We have worked tirelessly with the Florida HIV Justice Coalition, our bill sponsors, and others to educate legislators on the need for these long-overdue reforms.  While the bill is procedurally dead in the House, we were finally able to secure unanimous passage in the Senate Health Policy Committee! We continue to push forward this important bill. 

 

REMAINING THREATS

OPPOSE HB 1059/SB 1634  (Rep. Grall, Sen. Stargel): The overbroad so-called “Parental Rights” bill disrupts the careful balance between parental rights and a young person’s constitutional rights.  Among the bill’s problems, school counselors may be forced to out students, potentially subjecting them to harm; accessing healthcare or counseling may be more difficult for LGBTQ youth; and LGBTQ history could be erased from school textbooks.

  • This bill continues to be pushed by ultra-conservative national groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family, and state groups like the Florida Citizens Alliance that seeks to ban books with LGBTQ references.  We are educating our legislative allies on the dangers of this bill and working in coalition to oppose it.  

OPPOSE HB 305/SB 1126 (Rep. Rommel, Sen. Gruters):  The Preemption of Employment Conditions bill threatens local employment nondiscrimination protections that currently cover nearly 13 million Floridians, so they won’t face employment discrimination for who they are or who they love.  Everyone should be able to earn a living and provide for their families.  

  • This bill has moved through two of its House committees.  We have been working in coalition with allied organizations and businesses to clearly establish the threat to hard-won local protections that this sort of bill poses, especially when introduced year after year.  Senator Gruters’ version of the bill has language intended to avoid impacting the LGBTQ community, but the threat to local employment protections has not yet been sufficiently addressed.  

OPPOSE HB 537 (THREAT REMOVED!) & SB 778 (Rep. Donalds, Sen. Perry):  As written, the Home-Based Businesses Preemption rolls back critical protections for LGBTQ youth. It enables conversion therapy, even where cities and counties have instituted protections against the fraudulent and debunked practice.  Conversion therapy is as damaging in a home office as anywhere else.  

  • We worked with the business community to explain our concerns about the bill’s impact on conversion therapy ordinances, and it has been fixed in the House bill.  We look forward to implementing the same helpful amendment if the bill is heard in the Senate. 

OPPOSE HB 265/SB 404 (Rep. Grall, Sen. Stargel): The Forced Parental Consent bills seek to overturn Florida’s Roe v. Wade.  It would force teens to obtain parental consent prior to receiving an abortion, regardless of circumstance. We know that most teens already do consult a parent, and the LGBTQ community understands that if they don’t, it’s for a good reason. 

  • We stood with the numerous brave young women who spoke out about this bill that puts their well-being at risk and with our legislative champions who called out its blatant unconstitutionality.  We are now shifting our focus to the Governor, who has already expressed support for the legislation.  

 

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

These bills have not yet been heard in the House or Senate.  Disappointingly, these bills appear unlikely to advance this session, though legislative support continues to grow.   

SUPPORT HB 161/SB 206 (Rep. Toledo, Sen. Rouson): Updating the Florida Civil Rights Act with the Florida Competitive Workforce Act is a top priority with strong bipartisan support.  It clearly prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians and ensures that Florida is a safe place to live, work, and visit for all people, including LGBTQ people. 

  • Just over half way through session we already have 66 cosponsors on this legislation, including the most Senators ever in its history, and yet there still has been no hearing.  House Speaker Jose Oliva and Chair Bob Rommel--the first decider on a House hearing--have now openly said they oppose the bill, but we continue to push for a hearing in the Senate, where leadership has expressed openness to a hearing.  

SUPPORT HB 45/SB 56 (Rep. Eskamani, Sen. Rouson): School Voucher Equality would ban private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students from receiving public money. LGBTQ students need support to succeed in school, not state-sanctioned discrimination.  

  • While the Florida Legislature has failed to take action, a number of business leaders have “walked the walk” on implementing this policy by refusing to fund vouchers that allow for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.  Rep. Anna Eskamani and Rep. Carlos Smith have led the charge in publicly calling for any voucher program to treat all students equally.

SUPPORT HB 41/SB 180 (Rep. Grieco, Sen. Rodríguez): So-called “conversion therapy” is fraudulent, dangerous, and inflicts immeasurable harm on its victims.  It has been debunked by every mainstream medical and mental health association. Protections Against Conversion Therapy will put an end to this practice on minors by licensed mental health practitioners.  

  • Inexplicably, the Florida Legislature lags behind 18 other state legislatures that have enacted statewide protections against conversion therapy.  We have recently secured backing from numerous state organizations like the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association, Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Florida PTA, and yet the legislature has refused to even consider these bills.    

SUPPORT HB 655/SB 940 (Rep. Geller, Sen. Rader): The Hate Crimes Law Expansion would amend existing law so that a crimes of prejudice based on gender or gender identity are considered hate crimes. Black transgender women are overwhelmingly disproportionately the victims of hate motivated violence.  They deserve the full protection of law. 

  • Even with the death of seven Black transgender women in two year in Florida, the Legislature has not prioritized these bills for a hearing.  We continue to work closely with the Florida Hate Crimes Coalition and other partners to highlight the important need to make our state hate crimes law more inclusive.  

SUPPORT HB 6011/SB 1010 (Rep. Hattersley, Sen. Farmer):  It’s long past time for the Marriage Ban Repeal, which deletes outdated and patently unconstitutional laws that ban recognizing same-sex marriage and define marriage as only between a man and a woman. 

  • The frustrating lack of movement on these bills to date shows that leadership controlling Florida’s legislative process can oppose even the most common sense legislation.

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