Metro Weekly

Anti-gay advocates accuse Florida gay state rep of “bullying” governor

Rick Scott allegedly promised to sign executive order as show of solidarity in wake of Pulse nightclub massacre

Florida State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith – Photo: Facebook.

“It’s a shame @CarlosGSmith & @equalityfl use Pulse terrorist attack to bully @FLGovScott to further political agenda.”

–The Florida Family Policy Council, in a tweet attacking openly gay Florida State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) and Equality Florida for accusing Gov. Rick Scott (R) of backtracking on his promise to sign an executive order that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ state employees.

Smith was quoted in an Associated Press article accusing Scott and other politicians of using the Pulse nightclub shooting for political gain.

“Many political leaders used the tragedy at Pulse to leverage their own political careers and to make promises to our community that they could have delivered on but they did not,” Smith said at a recent forum for Orlando’s LGBTQ and Latino communities.

LGBTQ advocates say the governor’s staff promised to take action after the tragic shooting, which killed 49 individuals. They say two members of the governor’s staff, Chief of Staff Kim McDougal and legislative affairs director Kevin Reilly, met with Equality Florida to ask what could be done to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. 

Equality Florida advocates told the governor’s staffers that issuing a nondiscrimination order with protections for sexual orientation and gender identity would be a good way to show support for the community. In return, the governor’s staff promised they would take action. But Scott has not signed any such executive order into law.

In July, Smith said he felt “personally disrespected” after Scott avoided the topic after the two crossed paths at an Orlando event.

Scott has refused to talk about the alleged promise to sign the order, but insists that federal guidelines protect the gay community, and that the state follows those guidelines.

“Florida is a state that doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any form,” Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott’s office, told Orlando Weekly. “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. Our office will continue to review ways we can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind.”

Smith doesn’t believe the governor’s justifications are sufficient. But the Florida Family Policy Council, which opposes any expansion of LGBTQ rights, has now turned on Smith and Equality Florida and accused them of “bullying” Scott in order to push a left-wing social agenda. 

“The issue at hand isn’t discrimination but terrorism @CarlosGSmith @equalityfl Quit bullying @FLGovScott,” the organization tweeted.

But Equality Florida seems intent on making sure Scott keeps his promise, and is refusing to back away from the issue.
 
“We are eager to hear directly from Governor Scott as to why he neglected to keep his promise to the LGBTQ community in the wake of Pulse,” Hannah Willard, the organization’s senior policy director, said in a statement. “With the stroke of a pen, he could use the power of his office to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination.”
 
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com