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By Phil Ammann

Florida Realtors have become the latest group to join the effort to modernize state law by including anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

As real estate professionals descend upon Tallahassee to take part in the annual Great American Realtors Days on Tuesday and Wednsday, the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce (FBCW) coalition sends its gratitude to Florida Realtors for becoming a member of the coalition pushing for passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.

The bipartisan measure has been filed for the 2016 legislative session as House Bill 45 by Republican State Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo and Senate Bill 120 by Democratic Sen. Joseph Abruzzo of Boynton Beach.

In the decision to join the coalition, Florida Realtors cited a recent nationwide study from the 2015 LGBT Homebuyer and Seller Survey, conducted by the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. The organization found 97 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) respondents saying it is important to live in a state with an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance. Three out of four respondents say such an ordinance is “very important.”

Additionally, 73 percent of LGBT respondents say they are strongly concerned about housing discrimination, either in purchasing a home or renting.

“We are thrilled to have Florida Realtors, the state’s largest trade association, as a coalition partner,” said FBCW campaign manager Patrick Slevin. “Their advocacy for fair-housing and property rights aligns with the coalition’s efforts to update the Civil Rights Act of 1992.”

It is illegal in Florida to discriminate for employment, housing and public accommodations because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or marital status. However, the gay and transgender community has no statewide nondiscrimination protection. The Competitive Workforce Act aims to address that by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the law.

“Florida Realtors is pleased to support the Competitive Workforce Act to ensure everyone has an opportunity to realize the American dream of homeownership,” said Florida Realtors CEO Bill Martin. “Our beautiful state has so much to offer to those who choose to make Florida their home.”

Several leading Florida firms have joined the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce Coalition, which contends that Florida’s economy will grow by attracting and retaining the best workers to the state through assurances of equal opportunity employment. Among the employers already part of the effort are Fortune 500 companies AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo have joined, as well as more than 400 local businesses.