In the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman entered a gay club in Orlando, Florida and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding 53.
The state’s governor, Rick Scott (R), quickly offered his condolences to the families of those who were hurt and killed. “It’s devastating when you see how many people lost their life, and just the impact it’s gonna have on their families — I mean, I’ve got kids and grandkids — can’t imagine,” he said, as well as, “This a wonderful community… right now this is the time to grieve.”
Yet any gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender survivors of the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman on U.S. soil could show up at work on Monday morning, only to be fired from their jobs for their identity and find themselves without any protection from their state’s laws.
Florida is one of the many states that doesn’t have many legislative protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. The state has no laws prohibiting employers from unfairly firing, discriminating against, or refusing to hire LGBT people. The state also lacks any laws prohibiting discrimination in housing — such as unfair eviction, the denial of housing, or the refusal to rent or sell housing — or in public accommodations and credit and lending.
Florida’s lawmakers have also done little to change this picture, despite offering their support for the victims of the shooting. Saying that “the gay community was targeted in this attack,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R) said, “My focus is on the fact that innocent people who were doing nothing wrong, with plans to be somewhere doing something this afternoon, lost their lives.” Yet in 2013, when the Senate voted on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a federal bill that would prohibit job discrimination against LGBT people nationwide, Rubio voted against it. (The Equality Act, a much broader bill that would add LGBT people to the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was introduced in Congress last year but hasn’t even gotten a vote yet.)
Many more Congresspeople from Florida were offering their condolences in the wake of the massacre. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) tweeted, “My thoughts & prayers are with the victims, families & people of Orlando” and called it a “barbaric terrorist attack.” Rep. John Mica said in a statement, “The whole community is shocked and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families from these events.” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R) said he “mourn[s] the tragic loss of life,” adding, “Orlando, we are all here for you.” Rep. Dennis Ross (R) called it an “evil act” and added, “I ask all Americans to join me in prayer for the victims and their families.” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
Yet just last month, all of them were part of a group of 12 Florida Representatives who voted against an amendment that would have prohibited federal funds from going to contractors who discriminate against their employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
And a bill in the Florida legislature that would have added employment and housing protections for LGBT people died when it failed to pass out of a Senate committee in February thanks to objections from Republicans who feared transgender girls using women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. One of the state Senators who voted against it, Jeff Brandes (R), posted on Facebook, “Praying for our Orlando neighbors.”