Local officials started a petition Friday to protect LGBTQ+ state employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation.
Gainesville and Alachua County leaders gathered Friday morning at Veterans Memorial Park, located at 7430 NW 41st Place, to announce a petition requesting Gov. Rick Scott to sign an executive order to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ state employees, said Terry Fleming, a co-president of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, City Commissioner Helen Warren, County Commissioner Ken Cornell, County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson, UF faculty member Flo Turcotte and Fleming were all in attendance.
“It’s unfortunate that in Florida, you can still be fired for being gay,” Fleming said.
Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Scott promised LGBTQ+ activists he would sign an executive order protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ state workers, but the promise was never fulfilled, Fleming said.
“It’s a real abandonment of that promise that he’s not done so,” he said.
The petition was announced on Veterans Day weekend to lift up LGBTQ+ veterans’ voices, said Fleming, who is a Navy veteran. The main speaker at the press conference, Brett Jones, was the first openly gay Navy SEAL.
“Our armed services protect the LGBT community, but if you come back to your hometown and you’re a veteran and you’re LGBT, you can still lose your job,” Fleming said.
The group hopes to present the petition to Scott at the beginning of next year, Fleming said.
Lauren Schenone, a spokesperson for Scott, said Florida doesn’t discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers.
“Florida is a state that doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any form,” she wrote in an email. “In accordance with federal guidelines, Florida state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way.”
Warren doesn’t believe Scott’s statement is a sufficient response to the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces.
“That’s a blanket statement saying that everybody is treated equally, but that’s not saying that individuals are protected specifically for an LGBT identity,” Warren said. “There are too many people still in the closet because they don’t feel comfortable sharing that part of their lives.”