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Florida Rep. On Supreme Court Decision: 'It's About Freedom'

Equality Florida
State Rep. Holly Raschein, right, with citizen lobbyists at Equality Florida's lobby day in Tallahassee in 2016.

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that employers may not discriminate against LGBTQ employees because of their sexual orientation.

In Florida, a bill that offered legal protection to LGBTQ people has failed year after year in the state Legislature. State Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, has been a sponsor and champion for that bill.

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Raschein spoke Monday with WLRN's Nancy Klingener. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

WLRN: What did you think when you heard the news about the Supreme Court decision?

HOLLY RASCHEIN: I was actually getting ready to head to the airport and you know how the music comes on the TV — "special report" — so of course I stopped what I was doing and I was like, "Oh my gosh! Wow!" I don't want to say that I was super surprised but I was certainly happy and didn't see that coming.

Given the divisiveness of today, we obviously are going through a pandemic and then we have protests and so on and so forth, this is a positive shot in the arm that our country needs right now.

What will this decision mean for Florida, both locally and at the state government level?

I think that once the Supreme Court hands down their ruling, that's the law of the land. And that states and locales must adjust accordingly.

You have been filing legislation for years to add protection for LGBTQ people to Florida law. Was there anything your bill would do that isn't covered by this?

My bill also included public accommodations and housing. This covers employment. Which, by the way, I don't want to minimize. It's a huge step forward.

Did you receive any pushback as a Republican since promoting LGBTQ rights is not exactly the top of the party's priority list and in fact the Trump administration has been actively rolling back these rights on a national level?

No, I think folks pretty much understood that my level of partisanship was very moderate and that I had a very unique district to represent and that's quite frankly how I feel personally. So. You love who you love and you are who you are. And it was very easy for me to sponsor the legislation and help shepherd it through and hopefully this decision will open up even more opportunities for equality.

The people in Tallahassee that didn't support your bill, what did they tell you were some of the reasons for not supporting it?

Number one, first and foremost, was litigation. They thought it would open up for needless and numerous lawsuits — especially on the part of small businesses that may or may not understand the nuances or the ordinances or the law or the justification for the laws.

You've been active enough on this that Equality Florida gave you their Voice for Equality award a couple years ago — how did this issue get on your radar in the first place?

I was approached by Equality Florida to take a look at the legislation — they approached me as the first Republican to sponsor this legislation, which I was surprised that I was the first one but, it was just kind of a no-brainer for me.

I think that it's smart for business. I think it's smart for recruitment. Big businesses look for states to settle or put their headquarters in that have these sort of protections in place. Millennials and whatever the next generation is called look for states and communities that have these protections in place, very inclusionary. And quite frankly, it's about freedom. I think this allows people to be who they are and love who they love.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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