Today we hear from John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa, reporting on his chapter's successful efforts to move forward an amendment inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity to an already-existing human rights ordinance: 

The Hillsborough County, Florida,  Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to approve a motion today to authorize the County Attorney’s Office to prepare an amendment to the Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance 00-37. The amendment would prohibit discrimination within Hillsborough County on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in connection with employment, public accommodations, real estate transactions and County contracting and procurement. The amendment will provide equal treatment to residents and workers in Hillsborough County, but protections do not apply to those that live or work outside of the county. The motion was introduced by Commissioner Kevin Beckner. John Desmond of PFLAG Tampa spoke first in a crowded BOCC auditorium in favor of the amendment. Opponents also were present, many with Bibles in hand. The motion was approved 7-0.

The Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance was first passed in 1988. It currently includes protections against discrimination because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability and marital status. The inclusion of sexual orientation among the protected classes was first proposed in 1989, added in 1991, removed in 1995, and proposed again in 2000. Currently, eight other Florida counties and 17 cities, including Tampa (which is in Hillsborough County), prohibit employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nationally, 21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 16 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The amended Hillsborough County Human Rights Ordinance will support economic development by helping to recruit and retain a talented workforce. According to the Center for American Progress, employment discrimination also decreases retention rates, impairs job performance and productivity and limits access to consumer markets. Among Fortune 500 companies, 91 percent extend workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 61 percent on the basis of gender identity.

The draft amendment will have to withstand two public hearings and BOCC votes to become law.

Congratulations, PFLAG Tampa! Be sure to keep Focus on the Field posted on your progress!
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