Florida attorney general candidate proposes anti-LGBTQ ‘license to discriminate’

State Rep. Jay Fant was inspired by an anti-gay baker's Supreme Court case.

CREDIT: Facebook/Jay Fant
CREDIT: Facebook/Jay Fant

State lawmakers are already gearing up for their legislatures to return next year, and already, one Florida lawmaker has his eyes set on discriminating against LGBTQ people.

Florida state Rep. Jay Fant (R) has introduced what he calls the “Free Enterprise Protection Act”, which would allow business owners to refuse service to LGBTQ people without repercussion.

House Bill 871 is modeled after the First Amendment Defense Act introduced in Congress. It prohibits the government from taking any “discriminatory action” against a business because of its “personnel and employee benefit policies” or because it exercises its freedoms of expression and religion. Given Florida has no state law protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations, this would be nothing short of an invitation to discriminate — one that would sidestep protections that exist at the local level in cities across the state.

The “discriminatory actions” from which Fant wants to protect businesses include tax penalties; denying grants, contracts, or certifications; or excluding the business from speech forums.

Fant, who is also running to be Florida’s next attorney general, openly admitted that he was inspired by Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court case involving a Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. “I hope SCOTUS overturns this very bad ruling out of liberal Colorado, but I’m not sitting back to see what happens,” he said on Facebook.

As blogger David Cary Hart notes, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-LGBTQ hate group that is representing that baker, is also known for drafting legislation like this. Likewise, ADF apparently consulted heavily on the Department of Justice’s new “religious freedom” guidance, which similarly implicates LGBTQ equality.

According to Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat, Fant’s bill is not likely to succeed in the 2018 session. But, he writes, “filing it positions Fant on the conservative edge of the GOP field for the Cabinet race.”