Senate judiciary cancels meeting, delaying LGBT rights bill again

This article was originally published on Politico.

By Daniel Ducassi

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate Judiciary Committee canceled its meeting set for next week, even though it was supposed to hear a high-profile bill aimed at ending employment discrimination against LGBT Floridians after running out of time in its meeting this week.

“I have a longstanding obligation in my district during the time allotted for the meeting on February 2,” said committee chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican from Miami, in a statement. “I have discussed this issue with President Gardiner, and he agreed to give the committee an additional meeting slot during the week of February 8, which I believe will provide ample time to discuss and debate the important issues before the committee.”

The legislation (SB 120) would add definitions for “gender identity or expression” and “sexual orientation” to existing state anti-discrimination laws that ban discrimination based on things like religion, gender, age and national origin. The bill has broad backing from the business community and bipartisan support in both chambers.

Diaz de la Portilla promised that the bill would be heard first at the committee’s next meeting after the clock ran out at its last meeting.

“We have waited for almost 10 years to have the most important civil rights bill in a generation heard in the Florida Legislature. We can wait another week,” Carlos Guillermo Smith, speaking on behalf of LGBT rights group Equality Florida, told POLITICO Florida after the meeting.

Asked about the delay, Hannah Willard, speaking on behalf of Equality Florida, said her group had “no reason to believe” the committee would not hear the bill.

“Of course, we hope the meeting will happen as soon as possible, because we hope this is the year that Florida leads the South and finally outlaws” LGBT discrimination, she added.