With a similar push making its way through the U.S. Senate, state Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, said a bill he’s pushing to ban discrimination based on sexual preference or gender identification could pass the Florida House.

If it ever got a vote.

“I started last year not knowing the temperature of the chamber,” said Saunders, who has pushed the bill (HB 239) since being elected last year.

Last year, Saunders also became one of the first two openly gay members of the Florida House of Representatives.

“I believe the bill would pass on the floor if it were to get there today,” he said. “The challenge we have is to have that conversation.”

As evidence, House lawmakers — mostly Democrats — held a press conference Tuesday to tout Republicans signed onto the bill as co-sponsors, including Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, who described the measure as “pro-business.”

“Protecting Florida’s workforce from all forms of discrimination will help draw the best and the brightest talent to our businesses,” she said.

Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, is also a co-sponsor. The bill, called the Competitive Workforce Act, is being sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach.

Democrats have been sponsoring it every year since 2007 but has never received a hearing. It would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and other public services decisions on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to the bases already included in law: race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, marital status and handicap.

Some two dozen cities in Florida have already passed similar bans, and the U.S. Senate on Monday advanced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with 61 votes, one more than is needed to move the bill to a full floor vote — where it is expected to pass. It faces a rougher road in the U.S. House.

And the Florida version also faces a tough road to passage.

Click here for the story in the Orlando Sentinel.

Saunders says LGBT anti-discrimination bill would pass the House – Orlando Sentinel
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