Marriage equality is the law of the land across the United States. However, in thirty-one states, employees can still be fired, simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In Florida, local laws protect LGBT citizens from discrimination in sixty percent of the state. Without a statewide nondiscrimination law, the LGBT community has no guaranteed employment protections. Click here for part 1 of LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Laws.
Brittany Link-Hayes of Equality Florida joins Robert Traynham to track the latest legislative developments out of her state, and nationwide.
Interview recorded on May 17, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham. Part 2 of 2.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: And, Brittany, we should also say, just a personal right of privilege, going to Florida a lot — You know, it’s a paradise state. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the Sunshine State, but it’s also a southern state. –
Link-Hayes: Correct. –
Traynham: And for this to be even considered in the Florida legislature I think is a significant milestone because of that. Am I not correct?
Link-Hayes: Oh, you are absolutely correct, yes, and this has taken decades of work, decades of visible, public education. We have built a coalition of business support, you know, businesses that have nondiscrimination protection policies in place and are saying, “Look, this isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s absolutely the smart thing to do.” So along with that, our bipartisan coalition in the Florida Legislature and raising faith voices, you know, we are actually now poised to be the breakthrough state in the south and to actually pass LGBTQ protections.
Traynham: Actually, great minds think alike. That was gonna be my next question is do you think Florida will be the state that Mississippi, Alabama — some of the other states could say, “If Florida can do it, so can we”?
Link-Hayes: Exactly. You’re correct. And that’s what we’re hoping to do by passing these protections is to sort of break that log jam in the south and then allow that to ripple, you know, through the nation. And we already have multiple different education campaigns that we’re running like our Equality Means Business campaign that other states are replicating to, again, pass their own protections.
Traynham: How do you measure success? I mean, clearly the ultimate goal is to get the bill passed and signed into law by the governor, but is there a lot of grassroots support or a lot of mayors and small-business owners on board that perhaps another state could say, “Listen, this is how Florida did it. We need to emulate this.”
Link-Hayes: Right, and we absolutely started at the local level. That’s probably our number-one thing. And right now, 60% of Floridians actually live in an area that have LGBTQ protections. That’s a huge number. That’s more than half of Floridians that already live there. And the same with our bipartisan coalition in Florida, in the legislature. You know, that’s also a staggering number — a third of Republicans — You know, a third of our 71 co-sponsors being Republican. That really shows that this is a bipartisan issue, and, you know, that’s what we’ll need to pass it nationwide.
Traynham: Brittany, why are you inspired to do the work that you are doing with respect to ending discrimination, not only just in Florida but across the country?
Link-Hayes: Well, no, it’s absolutely the right thing to do, and, you know, LGBTQ people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to be treated equally under the law, and so this is really why it’s our number-one priority at this moment.
Traynham: Are you getting a lot of calls from around the country trying to see exactly how you’re doing this so perhaps maybe they can emulate later on this year?
Link-Hayes: Right. No. Yes. We definitely are. And another program along with our Equality Means Business program that has been replicated in multiple states has also been our transgender inclusion initiative. And so that’s been another one where we are trying to raise transgender voices and, again, explain what issues are important to the LGBTQ community.
Traynham: Brittany, in the minute or so we have left, any lessons learned? Anything that, perhaps, if I’m in the state of Alabama or Pennsylvania, whatever the case may be — that will say, “You know what? This is how Florida did it. This is how we probably shouldn’t do it in terms of…” Anything in terms of lessons learned?
Link-Hayes: Right. I think the biggest thing is that, you know, we have — You know, people are very worried right now with the political climate, but we have always — The LGBTQ movement has always thrived in a hostile climate, and so, one, that’s one of the things I think we can really take away from that is that we can build bipartisan coalitions, we can build support with faith leaders and with the business community, and we can, you know — we can carve out victories in this type of environment. And so by doing so, that’s how we are going to pass protections, you know, not just in Florida but nationwide and continue to progress to full equality.
Traynham: Well, Brittany Link-Hayes. Really appreciate it, and you’re an inspiration.
Link-Hayes: Thank you so much.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I’m Robert Traynham.