TAMPA — A coalition of many politically influential Florida businesses — some of whom typically back conservative or Republican causes — have announced their support for a law adding sex orientation and gender identity to state anti-discrimination laws.
Similar legislation has been filed in the state Legislature for at least eight years, but has never gone anywhere, said one sponsor of the bill, Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo.
The new coalition includes Disney World, railway giant CSX, health insurer Florida Blue, Wells Fargo, Florida Fortune 500 companies Tech Data and Darden Restaurants. The companies said they’ll have an easier time recruiting employees if Florida is known as a state that doesn’t allow discrimination.
“Recruiting and retaining talent is critical to our long-term business success,” said a statement from the coalition. “Florida employers must attract qualified and diverse applicants who reflect the diverse population of the state.”
The coalition said there is a “link between strong anti-discrimination laws and the ability to draw the best and the brightest,” and that most of the nation’s largest companies have adopted anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Florida gay rights advocates welcomed the support.
Companies considering relocation or expansion want to know their employees and their families will be treated fairly, said Nadine Smith, president of Equality Florida, the state’s most prominent gay rights group.
“The corporate culture understands that top talent look not only at a company’s internal policies, but also at the community they will call home,” Smith said.
The statement from the businesses, calling themselves the Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, described the legislation they’re backing as bipartisan.