Guest Column: It’s time Florida passes the Competitive Workforce Act 

Guest Column: It’s time Florida passes the Competitive Workforce Act 

Schmitz Profile(Orlando Sentinel, June 11, 2019)

By Rev. Kathy Schmitz

As Pride Month continues across the country, here in Central Florida we reflect on the events at Pulse Nightclub three years ago.

We knew at the time of the massacre that we, as a community, would be changed forever. And this has proven true. So much has happened. There has been much healing. There are signs of social progress. But there also remains much work to do.

As a minister serving in Orlando at the time of the shooting, I had the opportunity to see the outpouring of love from the community. People searched for ways to help — providing food and water, offering counsel and support, speaking up and bearing witness to what had happened.

I watched as those who previously preached messages that were less than inclusive searched their hearts and changed. I watched as those who were silently supportive realized they must use their voices and their power.

Three years is both a long time and a blink of the eye. Our annual remembrances offer us an opportunity to consider whether we have lived up to the passionate commitments uttered in the tragedy’s wake.

Do we continue to help bend the arc of the moral universe so that no one and no community is marginalized? How far have we come in creating a world with true justice and liberty for all?

While there are many things that need our time and attention, there is one thing we can do in the year ahead that can make a tremendous difference and does not need to be difficult: We can declare that in the state of Florida it is not OK to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

It would be lovely if there were no need for legal protections. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Legislation — called the Competitive Workforce Act — has been put forward in Tallahassee in recent years and inches a little further forward at each legislative session. During this Pride Month, let’s make a commitment that 2020 will be the last legislative session that needs to discuss this proposal.

Let’s get it done!

Florida is one of 32 states without statewide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This puts us at a civil and commercial disadvantage. Most importantly, it sends the unintentional message that we condone such discrimination. Yet 73 percent Floridians support the protections provided by the Competitive Workforce Act.

We must ensure that everyone in our state can earn a living, have a place to live and be equally served by government and businesses alike. Most of us would like to think this is already the case. Sadly, in much of the state there is nothing to prevent our LGBT+ friends and neighbors from being discriminated against in these areas based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Our family members and co-workers are not equally protected under the law. But we can change this.

It is incumbent on people of faith, with their faith communities, to join together with others of goodwill to ensure that thousands of cases of discrimination that occur across the country each year are not seen in Florida.

Regardless of differences in beliefs and practices, a thread we share is the desire to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. We honor the worth and dignity of each person and recognize the need of all families to feel secure in their living and their working. The Competitive Workforce Act helps to provide this security.

This week, as we reflect on where we have been and what is still to come, let’s remember the love that poured from our broken hearts three years ago. Let’s honor those lost, as well as those still suffering and recovering, by bending that arc of the moral universe just a little further toward justice.

Rev. Kathy Schmitz is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and a member of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.

Here is how the column looked in print.

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Stop the Bans Rally & March

Honored today to be part of the Stop the Bans Rally & March in Orlando today. Inspired by the other other speakers: Alyssa Leann, Guerdy Remy, Amaris Leon, JD, Kim Porteous, Stephanie Pineiro, Dr. Jennifer Sandoval, Nathan Bruemmer, JD, Representative Anna V. Eskamani and by the estimated 1,300 attendees who braved bright sun and temperatures in the mid-90’s.

My printed remarks are below.

Here are links to some Facebook Live session that captured part of them.

Video 1: Middle of my remarks (1:40) (video is good for crowd context)

Video 2: End of my remarks (1:20 and then continue to other speakers)

Stop the Bans Rally & March, May 26, 2019
Lake Eola, Orlando, Florida

My friends…
I come to you today as a faith leader.
I come to lift up the voices of so many people of faith, laity and leaders,
who affirm the absolute right of women to access abortion care.
They do that, we do that, not in spite of our faith, but because of our faith.

Within our various traditions,
we may ponder different theological questions.
Yet, together, we can affirm that right of conscience,
so critical to authentic faith. (Video 1 begins)

The right of conscience says that
a woman faced with an unplanned or complicated pregnancy
is the only one, The. Only. One.
with the wisdom, let alone the authority,
to decide how to proceed.

A woman may, as she is guided, choose to consider
the teachings of her faith tradition,
the counsel of a trusted leader,
or perhaps other sources of insight and support.
Yet, ultimately, she is the one, The. Only. One.
who must make that decision.
who must Exercise. Her. Right of Conscience.

100 years ago, today, women voted in an Orlando election for the first time.
We have come so far. (Video 2 begins)
There is still so much work to do.

With my colleagues at the Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health & Justice,
I affirm the moral authority of women.
I reject any government interference or coercion.

I am here because it is not OK…
It is NOT OK…
for some people of faith
to assert that their particular understanding should be the law of the land. (Video 1 ends)

I am here because abortion bans are an assault on my faith.
They are an assault on the very concept of religious liberty.
which is so critical to who we are as a nation.

I am here to affirm you, my sisters, our allies,
and our daughters and granddaughters, and generations to come.

We must stop the bans!

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CF100: 2019 05 26 – Women’s Vote

Each week, the Orlando Sentinel asks two questions of 100 community leaders in Central Florida. Those with access to the online Sentinel can read all of this week’s 100-word responses when there are published online, usually late Saturday. For those without access, my responses are below. Selected responses, such as the one below,appear in the Sunday print edition.

What was the biggest story of the week?

100 years ago today, May 26, 1919, women voted in an Orlando election for the first time. It was a bond bill, which at the time limited voting to property owners. 148 women took part in the vote, which expanded Orlando’s brick streets by 11 miles. It would still be a year and a half before women across the nation would vote in a national election. A century later, we celebrate how far we have come, and yet, look ahead at the work still undone. With gratitude for those who came before, may we commit to the continuing struggle.

 

What will be the biggest story in the coming week?

No Submission.


The series focuses on state and local news.

Read the Sentinel’s introduction to the series

Read my first post on the series.

My posts related to this can be found using the categories in the right sidebar. Click either Central Florida or Current Events.

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CF100: 2019 05 05 – Enacting Ugly Policies

Each week, the Orlando Sentinel asks two questions of 100 community leaders in Central Florida. Those with access to the online Sentinel can read all of this week’s 100-word responses when there are published online, usually late Saturday. For those without access, my responses are below. Selected responses, such as the one below,appear in the Sunday print edition.

What was the biggest story of the week?

In Tallahassee, legislative conservatives have been bartering over how ugly they can be in oppressing Florida immigrants. Determined to force local law enforcement to do the job of federal agencies, proposals would require detaining those suspected of being undocumented, overriding local community decisions to be Sanctuary Cities. Sanctuary Cities increase safety by making it safe for all residents to work with police. They reduce unnecessary harassment of citizens and those with documents when, because of name, language, and appearance they are “suspected” of being undocumented. Local municipalities must have the ability to make the policies most suited to their community.

What will be the biggest story in the coming week?

No Submission.


The series focuses on state and local news.

Read the Sentinel’s introduction to the series

Read my first post on the series.

My posts related to this can be found using the categories in the right sidebar. Click either Central Florida or Current Events.

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CF100: 2019 04 21 – Making Hard Times Harder

Trying to get back in the habit of writing for this column and posting my submissions here whether or not they make it to print.

Each week, the Orlando Sentinel asks two questions of 100 community leaders in Central Florida. Those with access to the online Sentinel can read all of this week’s 100-word responses when there are published online,  usually late Saturday. For those without access, my responses are below. Selected responses appear in the Sunday print edition.

What was the biggest story of the week?

Most teenagers facing unplanned pregnancy turn to parents for advice and support. A rare few do not, primarily because of abuse; physical, sexual, or emotional. The Florida House this week approved a bill that would increase the burden on the latter by requiring written parental approval. Not only have such requirements already been struck down by the courts, its proponents showed their true colors by failing to approve an amendment that would have clarified the process for getting waivers. Fortunately, the senate version is still in committee and hopefully will not emerge before the end of the session.

What will be the biggest story in the coming week?

No Submission.


The series focuses on state and local news.

Read the Sentinel’s introduction to the series

Read my first post on the series.

My posts related to this can be found using the categories in the right sidebar. Click either Central Florida or Current Events.

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CF100: 2019 02 17 – Civil Discourse or “Regret and Horror”

Trying to get back in the habit of writing for this column and post submissions here, whether or not they show up in print. (This one was written back in February.)

Each week, the Orlando Sentinel asks two questions of 100 community leaders in Central Florida. Those with access to the online Sentinel can read all of this week’s 100-word responses when there are published online,  usually late Saturday. For those without access, my responses are below. Selected responses appear in the Sunday print edition.

What was the biggest story of the week?

A Christian and an atheist walk on to a stage… respectful and meaningful conversation ensues. This was the scene this week at the 4th annual Summit on Religious Freedom sponsored by the Central Florida Commission on Religious Freedom. David Williamson, Director of the CF FreeThought Community, and Pastor Danny de Armas of First Baptist found common ground in understanding religious belief, or non-belief, as a right of conscience, in which the government must not meddle. The evening, emceed by the Three Wise Guys and keynoted by Rabbi David Saperstein, highlighted the possibilities beyond the divisions of modern civic discourse.

What will be the biggest story in the coming week?

The Hot Topic this month for the League of Women Voters was the Ocoee Election Day Massacre of 1920. Those born locally were asked when they first heard of it. For most, it was as adults. The silencing of our history of racial violence dishonors the lives lost or traumatized and deprives future generations the opportunity to learn from it. It is good that Ocoee City Commissioners have officially expressed “regret and horror” over these events. As we go forward, may we look with clear eyes at the past so that we can walk with greater justice into the future.


The series focuses on state and local news.

Read the Sentinel’s introduction to the series

Read my first post on the series.

My posts related to this can be found using the categories in the right sidebar. Click either Central Florida or Current Events.

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CF100: 2018 08 12 – Community & Sustainability

Each week, the Orlando Sentinel asks two questions of 100 community leaders in Central Florida. Those with access to the online Sentinel can read all of this week’s 100-word responses when there are published online,  usually late Saturday. For those without access, my responses are below. Selected responses appear in the Sunday print edition. (The first entry below appears on page A19 on the 8/12/18 print edition).

What was the biggest story of the week?

As mail-in ballots arrive and early polling stations open, Central Floridians watch election results nationwide. While possibly a referendum on the direction of the nation, our votes also show who we will be as a state, a county, and a city. Forces beyond our control suggest our individual votes make little difference. Yet, particularly in the last two years, Orlando has strived, repeatedly, to make decisions that celebrate the diversity of our community and honor the health and well-being of the whole. Our votes at this time will show if we continue to swim against the national and global tide.

What will be the biggest story in the coming week?

What must we do today to ensure a peaceful, just, and sustainable future for Central Florida? Just the issue of sustainability raises many questions about our social systems, our economic systems, and about our ecosystem. The next mayor of Orange County will play a key role in ensuring that we are on course to the tomorrow we want. What a great thing, then, that key stakeholders in these areas have convened a Sustainability Forum for the candidates for that position. And, thank you to the candidates for accepting the invitation. (August 15, 6:00 PM, CREDO Conduit, 1001 N Orange Ave.)


The series focuses on state and local news.

Read the Sentinel’s introduction to the series

Read my first post on the series.

My posts related to this can be found using the categories in the right sidebar. Click either Central Florida or Current Events.

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