July 29, 2016 at 11:34 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Orlando-area Republicans back Fla. anti-discrimination bill
Florida, Hospitality State, gay Florida couples, gay news, Washington Blade

A group of Republican lawmakers in central Florida have backed efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in their state.

More than 20 Republicans from central Florida on Thursday signed a resolution in support of banning anti-LGBT discrimination in their state.

The Orlando Political Observer reported that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs spearheaded the resolution in the wake of the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub. U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and state Reps. Mike Miller and Rene Plasencia are among the lawmakers who signed the resolution.

“We the undersigned do hereby resolve that all Americans should be treated with equality, dignity and respect, and support efforts of Florida businesses and individuals to pass legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification,” reads the resolution.

The Orlando Political Observer reported that Jacobs presented the resolution during the Orange County Republican Executive Committee Lincoln Day Dinner. There were 49 roses — one for each of those who died inside the Pulse nightclub — in front of the podium from which the GOP lawmaker spoke.

“These are what I like to think are the new generation of Republicans,” said Jacobs, according to the Orlando Political Observer. “What we grieved over a few weeks ago wasn’t a loss of gay people or Hispanic people, it was a loss of human beings. Human beings regardless of where they come from or who they love, had dreams and aspirations just like you and I.”

Orlando is among the Florida cities that include LGBT-specific protections in their human rights ordinances. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination laws, has been a legislative priority for Equality Florida, a statewide advocacy group, for more than a decade.

“Mayor Teresa Jacobs has made good on her promise to be a voice for equality and to challenge others in her party to stand on the side of equal protection for LGBT people,” Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith told the Washington Blade. “This is a moment when the state of Florida can become a beacon in the South and make amends for the state’s long, dark history of state sanction persecution and legalized discrimination.”

Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi — who are both Republicans — faced widespread criticism from advocates in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre for not specifically acknowledging the LGBT victims.

“They have not been very supportive of the community,” Tim Evanicki, entertainment manager of Parliament House, a gay hotel and entertainment complex in Orlando, told the Blade during an interview after the Pulse nightclub massacre. “The fact that they can’t even say . . . LGBT is incredibly offensive.”

Jacobs presented the resolution less than three weeks after police arrested an Equality Florida staffer and nine other gun control supporters who staged a sit-in in the lobby of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)’s office in Orlando, which is less than two miles from the Pulse nightclub. The former Republican presidential candidate next month is scheduled to speak at an event the Liberty Counsel Action, an Orlando-based group that opposes LGBT-specific issues, has organized.

Pam Bondi, Republican National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks at the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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