Businesses push to end gender identity, sexual orientation discrimination in workplace

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Some of Florida's largest employers are behind an effort to push a law through the Florida Legislature that would end discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

A representative at the Equality Florida offices told Channel 9's Renee Stoll that a large push behind this bill comes from Fortune 500 companies in Florida that want some uniformity when they recruit from other states so their workers can have equal rights working here.

Something that seemed simple suddenly became very complex for Gina Duncan at her job.

"The first thing that (human resources) at Wells Fargo said was, "What is the bathroom situation on your floor?'" said Duncan, a transgender spokeswoman.

Seven years ago, Duncan told her bosses at Wells Fargo she was making the transition from man to woman.

"I remember sitting there shaking as I was about to announce to all of these people, and knowing that from that point on that my story was out there," said Duncan.

Duncan says she was fortunate in that her company and co-workers supported her every step of the way, but she said her rights were limited.

"I think most people are really surprised when they hear that we have no law here in Florida that protects the LGBT community from discrimination," said Michael Farmer of Equality Florida.

Duncan said the company could have taken steps to fire her had they wanted to, especially after competitors used her experience to take business away.

"They got a call from a recruiter who said, "Do you really want to stay at that company and work for that freak?' So it got nasty," said Duncan.

Several local lawmakers are supporting a new state bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing civil rights code.

With recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, and with large companies like Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants supporting the bill, supporters believe it has a chance to pass. Previous attempts to pass similar legislation have failed.

"The challenge is great, not having to worry about your job or your financial well-being. Going forward is a huge step," said Duncan.

Currently, only 9 of 67 counties in Florida recognize domestic partnerships that protect those in the LGBT community.

The bill will make its way through the legislative session that begins in March.