Entries from: Florida

Gay lawmaker launches effort to protect Florida’s workers

joereporter-300x223The Sunshine State’s LGBT community could win protection from workplace discrimination if a new bipartisan bill is approved in the state legislature.  Florida is one of the largest states in the country still lacking a statewide LGBT anti-discrimination law.

State Rep. Joe Saunders, a Democrat elected in November and one of Florida’s first openly gay legislators (along with Rep. David Richardson), introduced the Florida Competitive Workforce Act this week. The legislation would prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Saunders is sponsoring the bill in conjunction with Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D- SD 25) and Rep. Holly Raschein (R- HD 120). All three sponsors said instituting statewide workplace protections is not only the “right thing to do,” but also profitable for Florida businesses.

“The Florida Competitive Workforce Act will help improve the business climate here in Florida. A majority of Fortune 500 companies already protect all employees from discrimination, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it helps their bottom line,” said Raschein. “For any business to thrive, they must be able to recruit and retain a diverse group of top talent to their company. This bill would allow Florida to be more competitive in a modern market place.”

Saunders notes that many Florida communities have already passed local anti-discrimination ordinances, and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will bring the entire state up to date.

“This bill is about ensuring employees are judged based on the work they do, not who they are or what their family looks like. It is time for Florida to catch up the private sector, and to its own municipalities that have already passed these protections on the local level,” he said.

Out Florida state rep. stands up for LGBT students and teachers

In a debate over an Orange County School Board proposal to protect LGBT students, teachers and staff from discrimination, newly elected Florida State Rep. Joe Saunders dismantles the fear tactics and outright lies of anti-gay activist John Stemberger.

After an eight-hour hearing, the school board voted 6 to 2 to add the protections. Last month Joe Saunders became one of Florida’s first two openly gay candidates elected to the state legislature.

Victory in Fla.: From no LGBT legislators to two or more

joereporterJoe Saunders is expected to win his race for the Florida House of Representatives tonight, joining David Richardson, who won a decisive primary for another State House seat in August.

They will become the first openly LGBT candidates elected to the Florida legislature, but the state’s voters could add a third out lawmaker tonight.  Gay Politics is also watching Ian Whitney’s race in Key West.

“These are groundbreaking and potentially very important victories in a state with no significant statewide laws protecting its LGBT citizens,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which endorsed Richardson, Saunders and Whitney.

Saunders is one of the leading voices for progressive values in the state of Florida. For seven years, as a senior staff member at Equality Florida, he advocated across the state for policies that now protect millions of people from discrimination.

Saunders’ team called the race on the campaign’s Facebook page this evening.

Florida elects first openly gay state legislator

david richardsonDavid Richardson has become the first openly LGBT candidate elected to the Florida legislature.  He won a Democratic primary tonight to represent the Miami-area District 113 in the Florida House of Representatives, and faces no GOP opponent this fall.

Florida had been the largest U.S. state never to have elected an out state lawmaker.  It is also among the largest states without significant statewide LGBT non-discrimination laws.

“David’s election sends a message to Tallahassee that LGBT Floridians will be heard.  Finally, we will have an authentic LGBT voice in the state capitol who will be unafraid to speak up and speak out for fairness,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.  Wolfe, a Florida native, previously served as a top aide to the late Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Another Victory Fund-endorsed candidate, Joe Saunders, also won his Democratic primary to represent Florida House District 49.  He now moves to the general election this November in a bid to join Richardson at the state capitol.

Victory Fund announces 17 new endorsements

annjohnsonThe Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund today announced 17 new endorsements of openly LGBT candidates, including 12 who are running for seats in their state legislatures.  The June endorsements bring to 129 the total number of Victory-endorsed candidates for 2012, but the group expects plenty more before November, according to Tiffany Muller, vice president for political operations.

“We’re on track to have our biggest year ever, including winning legislative races that would make history,” said Muller.

Two newly-endorsed candidates for the Florida House of Representatives, Joe Saunders and Dave Richardson, would be the Sunshine State’s first openly gay state lawmakers.  In Texas, Ann Johnson (pictured) could join Mary E. Gonzalez as the only openly LGBT state legislators.  And  Josh Boschee could become the first-ever openly LGBT state lawmaker in North Dakota.

Victory Fund’s new endorsees are:

State Legislative Races
Josh Boschee
North Dakota State House of Representatives, District 44
Justin Chenette
Maine State House of Representatives, District 134-Saco
Jeffrey Friedman
New York State Assembly, District 21
Sarah Gillooly
Missouri State House of Representatives, District 24
Abel Guillen
California State Assembly, District 18
Brad Hoylman
New York State Senate, District 27
Sam Yingling
Illinois State House of Representatives, District 62
Ann Johnson
Texas State House of Representatives, District 134
Claudia Kyle
Oregon State House of Representatives, District 19
David Pierce
New Hampshire State Senate, District 5
Dave Richardson
Florida State House of Representatives, District 113
Joe Saunders
Florida State House of Representatives, District 47
Municipal and Judicial Races
Elizabeth Berns
King County, Wash., Superior Court
Patrick Gossett
Rehoboth Beach City Commission
Carol Kuhnke
22nd Circuit Court Judge, Ann Arbor, MI
Brian McGrain
Ingham County, Mich., Board of Commissioners
Stephen Smith
Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board of Commissioners

State Legislative Races

Josh Boschee
North Dakota State House of Representatives, District 44

Justin Chenette
Maine State House of Representatives, District 134-Saco

Jeffrey Friedman
New York State Assembly, District 21

Sarah Gillooly
Missouri State House of Representatives, District 24

Abel Guillen
California State Assembly, District 18

Brad Hoylman
New York State Senate, District 27

Sam Yingling
Illinois State House of Representatives, District 62

Ann Johnson
Texas State House of Representatives, District 134

Claudia Kyle
Oregon State House of Representatives, District 19

David Pierce
New Hampshire State Senate, District 5

Dave Richardson
Florida State House of Representatives, District 113

Joe Saunders
Florida State House of Representatives, District 49

Municipal and Judicial Races

Elizabeth Berns
King County, Wash., Superior Court

Patrick Gossett
Rehoboth Beach City Commission

Carol Kuhnke
22nd Circuit Court Judge, Ann Arbor, MI

Brian McGrain
Ingham County, Mich., Board of Commissioners

Stephen Smith
Florida Keys Mosquito Control Board of Commissioners