Challenges Beyond Same-Sex Marriage Remain For LGBT Activists

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Florida LGBT rights organizations won an important battle with same-sex marriage rights but still face challenges with discrimination.

Local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates are now focusing on addressing anti-discrimination laws, some of which include providing employment, housing and public accommodation protection to members of the LGBT community.

Hannah Willard, a spokeswoman for Equality Florida, said while about 50 percent of Floridians live in areas where local policy prohibits discrimination due to sexual orientation, there is no statewide policy in place.

“There are a lot of different ways that our families experience discrimination other than just marriage,” Willard said.

Equality Florida, which focuses on achieving full equality for members of the Floridian LGBT community, are campaigning for legislation that addresses discrimination.

The group is in support of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which they hope will enact statewide policy change for discrimination, Willard said.

“We’re modernizing the Florida Civil Rights Act to include all Floridians,” she said. “We’ve been winning in a red state, and we’ll keep winning.”

L.B. Hannahs, director of LGBT Affairs at the University of Florida, said some activists worry that other issues affecting the LGBT community will dwindle now that marriage equality has been achieved.

“You can turn on any major news program right now and they’re talking about marriage, but they’re not talking about poverty or violence or unemployment,” Hannahs said.

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law  studied discrimination laws in the American South. Despite being home to 35 percent of America’s LGBT community, the study showed that the region’s policies received the lowest score in the country.

“One of the fears of the people who do advocacy with LGBT folks is that once same-sex marriage is passed, all of our allies are going to think, ‘Well, y’all are good. Your fight is over,’” Hannahs said. “Same-sex marriage is important, but it doesn’t solve all of our problems.”

Another problem the LGBT community faces is the attitude of people who do not support equal rights, Hannahs said.

Gainesville resident Ramon Littell agreed.

Littell is a member of the Gainesville chapter of Parents, Families, Friends and Allies of Lesbians and Gays. Littell’s gay son was married in California. He said if the couple had been married in Gainesville he would have worried more.

“In San Francisco, they can walk down the street and hold hands,” Littell said. “They can kiss each other without people making a huge fuss about it. Gainesville, relative to surrounding areas, is a liberal town. But we still have a long way to go.”

About Abigail Doupnik

Abigail is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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