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Pro-LGBT Public Policy Toolkit

Table of Contents Letter from Nadine Smith, CEO, Equality Florida................................................... 1

Section One: Legislative I. Human Rights Ordinance....................................................................................... 2 II. Domestic Partnerships........................................................................................... 4 III. Equal Benefits Ordinance..................................................................................... 6 IV. Tax Equity Policy ...................................................................................................... 8 V. Safe Schools Policy.................................................................................................10 VI. Campaign Timeline...............................................................................................11 VII. Lobbying 101.........................................................................................................13

Section Two: Executive Working with Your Mayor.........................................................................................16

Section Three: Model Language Human Rights Ordinance.........................................................................................17 Domestic Partnership Registry...............................................................................17 Equal Benefits Ordinance.........................................................................................17 Tax Equity Policy..........................................................................................................17 Safe Schools Policy.....................................................................................................17

Dear Reader, I’m thrilled to bring you the first addition of the Pro-LGBT Policy Toolkit. Our team developed this toolkit as a resource for Floridians who want to create change in their community and help to make the world a more fair place for LGBT people. Since Equality Florida was first formed in 1997, we have seen a lot of changes in our state. From Anita Bryant to the Johns Committee, the Sunshine state has seen it’s share of dark days, but the tide is turning because of the hard work of thousands of people who know we can do better. Equality for LGBT people in Florida has never enjoyed more support than right now. Over the last three years in particular, we have seen dozens of pro-equality policies pass on the local level, and many more communities are interested in passing their own. You are reading this toolkit because you are interested in passing a policy in your community. First let me say congratulations, you have already done the most important part, deciding that change needs to happen, and that you are going to be an agent of that change. I hope this toolkit gives you guidance, but please know our help does not stop here. Our team is available to help provide model language, campaign strategy, lobby training or volunteer recruitment where needed, just let us know how we can help. Until Equality Is Ours,

Nadine Smith CEO, Equality Florida


Section One: Legislative I. Human Rights Ordinance What is an HRO? An HRO is a Human Rights Ordinance. A Human Rights Ordinance is a policy passed on the local level (city or county) to prohibit discrimination based on certain characteristics. These policies often ban discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment. HRO policies most often ban discrimination based on race, religion, sex, disability, ethnicity, national origin and marital status. A growing number of cities and counties are including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in their policies. They understand that it is important to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in non-discrimination laws. A large part of the work we do at Equality Florida is to work with teams in communities all across the state to ensure LGBT people are covered under these laws. In fact, a majority of Floridians now live in a municipality that includes LGBT people in it’s nondiscrimination laws.

QUICK NOTE: It is important to do research about what laws already exist in your community. Some communities already have HRO policies that include other categories, but leave out sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. In that case you will need to work your bill sponsor to include those categories in pre-existing law. In other cases, your municipality may not have any nondiscrimination laws already in place, so your team will need to work with your sponsor to develop a new law.

Important Definitions When working on policy that we want to become law, it is vital that the correct definitions and wording are included. That’s why we have developed model definitions for key terms that will appear in your policy. Using our recommended definitions will help ensure that there are no unintended consequences as a result of the policy that might actually do harm to our community. 2

Model Definitions n Gender: used interchangeably with sex and means actual or perceived sex n Gender identity or expression: a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth n Sexual orientation: an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality

Good to know!

n The public supports it. Employment non-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation have overwhelming public support, with every Gallup poll since 2001 showing public support in excess of 85%, and equal or higher levels of support from young voters aged 18 to 29. n Businesses are doing it. 99% of Fortune 500 Companies prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, 84% include gender identity n Places in Florida that already provide LGBT protections include: Alachua County, Gainesville, Orlando, Orange County, Leon County, Pinellas County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Monroe County, Gulfport, Dunedin, Tampa, Miami Beach, Tallahassee. 3

II. Domestic Partnerships What is a domestic partnership registry? Domestic partnerships (DP) grant certain health-care, child care and burial rights to committed couples who are not married. A registry is a term for the mechanism through which these rights are afforded. Typically, eligible couples fill out forms through the Clerk of Court in their City, pay a nominal fee and are then registered and recognized by that municipality. Registries afford domestic partners the rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples within that jurisdiction. Domestic partnerships are not recognized by the federal government, or the state of Florida and have no bearing on taxes or federal benefits. Important Definitions It is important to be clear who may qualify as a domestic partner. How the definition of “domestic partner� is written can greatly affect who is eligible for the registry. At Equality Florida, we believe domestic partnerships are a viable option for all couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex, who cannot, or choose not, to be married. It is also important not to create too many unreasonable burdens for couples who wish to register and to ensure domestic partners face no more barriers to registering their relationship than a couple would face when choosing to marry. Below is the recommended definition for who qualifies as a domestic partner. (Taken from the Broward County registry, created in 1999.) n Each party is at least 18 years old and competent to contract n Neither person is married, nor a partner to another domestic partnership relationship n Consent of either person to the domestic partnership relationship has not been obtained by force, duress, or fraud. n Each person agrees to be jointly responsible for each other’s basic food and shelter


Good to know! n Lots of places in Florida are already doing it. More and more places are learning the benefits of offering domestic partnerships. In Florida places like Broward County, Miami Beach, Gainesville, Miami Dade County, Palm Beach County, Tavares, Leon County, St. Pete, Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, Orange County and Volusia County offer domestic partnership registries. n The cost for creating a registry is minimal. Cities and counties that have these policies say their only cost is the administrative cost for paper for the certificates.


III. Equal Benefits Ordinance What is an Equal Benefits Ordinance? n An Equal Benefits Ordinance (EBO) requires businesses that contract with the city to treat employees with domestic partners the same way they treat married employees. If a company provides benefits to the spouses of their married employees, they would be required to provide the same benefits to an employees’ domestic partners if they wish to do business with the city. Benefits might include bereavement leave, access to health care plans and family medical leave. n EBO’s do not add new financial burdens for businesses, they simply require that companies treat married employees and employees in domestic partnerships equally in terms of the benefits they provide. If a company does not currently provide benefits to the spouses of their employees then they are not required to provide benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. n EBO’s have a proven track record of success in Florida and across the country. In recent years EBOs have been adopted as state law in California, and in the cities of San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Olympia, Minneapolis, Portland and Atlanta. In Florida, Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, Oakland Park and Broward County have passed EBOs. Why EBOs are important: n It is available, it typically costs the company nothing, and domestic partners need these protections for the same reason married couples do - to take care of their loved ones. n By and large this policy won’t cost employers a penny. And under this policy, no company would be required to change insurance carriers. n It won’t cost anything extra to a company that does not pay for benefits for their employees spouses. And it won’t impact companies that do not want a contract with the city.


Williams Institute Study: EBO’s have almost no costs, are generally embraced by contractors, and have a positive economic impact on the community. “Local ordinances that require city and county contractors to offer domestic partner benefits such as health insurance coverage have no adverse economic or other impact on the governments, the contractors or the economy as a whole. In fact, research shows that there are actually economic benefits associated with passing what is known as an equal benefits ordinance (EBO). This study evaluated data from 16 of the 17 localities with EBOs and found almost no resistance from contractors, almost no enforcement costs and no other adverse effects. The ordinances simply require that any benefits a local contractor provides to spouses of employees also be provided to domestic partners.� no-downside-to-offering-domestic-partner-benefits


IV. Tax Equity Policy Why are tax equity policies needed? When employees receive health insurance coverage from their employers for their families, the majority of their employers contribute at least half of the insurance coverage’s cost. For opposite sex couples, employers are not required by state or federal law to report their contribution to their employees taxable wages earned- health insurance coverage is excluded from that employees gross income. For employees in domestic partnerships, the employers contribution toward health care-coverage for the employees domestic partner must be reported as taxable wages earned resulting in the employee taking home less pay. On average, employees in domestic partnerships pay $1,069 more per year in taxes than their married counterparts.1 What can employers do to address this inequity? Employers that are committed to fairness in the workplace, and wish to provide equal pay for equal work to all employees are able to address this inequity. Employers must ensure that all employees have equivalent post-tax incomes. To do this employers “gross up”, which is the practice of increasing pre-tax income for some, so that all post-tax incomes are equitable. Essentially, grossing up provides equal pay for equal work. In fact, employers in the public and private sector are working to fix this inequity and ensuring all of their employees are treated equally. According to the Human Rights Campaign thirty two private sector employees, including major corporations like Google and Facebook “gross up” their employees salaries. Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Wilton Manors, Lake Worth and Hallandale Beach, Florida have also enacted such policies. The Orange and Palm Beach County tax collector offices added their own tax equity policies.


According to the Human Rights Campaign 8

Who is a Dependent Domestic Partner for Pre-Tax Health Coverage? IRS Publication 501 contains information on how to determine a dependent. In general, the following conditions must be met (in addition to meeting the City of Miami Beach’s domestic partner eligibility requirements) for a domestic partner to qualify as a tax dependent for pre-tax health coverage purposes under federal tax law. n Employee and employee’s domestic partner have the same principal place of abode for the entire calendar year; n Employee’s domestic partner is a member of employee’s household for the entire calendar year (the relationship must not violate local law); n During the calendar year, employee provides more than half of the domestic partner’s total support; n Employee’s domestic partner is not employee’s (or anyone else’s) qualifying child under Code 152(c); and n Employee’s domestic partner is a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a resident of the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. Note that the employee’s domestic partner could be the employee’s federal tax dependent for health coverage purposes even if the employee does not claim an exemption for him or her on the employee’s Form 1040. The City of Miami Beach will also consider the employee’s different-sex domestic partner to be the employee’s federal tax dependent for health coverage purposes if he or she meets the above requirements for the first portion of the year, then the employee marries, and he or she remains the employee’s legal spouse for the remainder of the year.


V. Safe Schools Policy What is a safe schools policy? A safe schools policy is an antibully and anti-harassment policy for students, faculty and staff in schools that includes an enumerated category of prohibited types of bullying and harassment. These policies are intended to keep all students protected and safe while at school. Why do safe schools policies need enumerated categories? Can’t we just ban bullying? Enumeration means to list the characteristics that research shows are most often the subject of bullying and harassment, including race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability and gender identity or expression. By listing specific types of bullying and harassment that are prohibited, it ensures our most vulnerable students are protected. Enumeration also provides teachers and administrators with the tools they need to implement anti-bullying and harassment policies, making it easier for them to prevent bullying and to intervene when incidents occur. The Supreme Court of the United States noted in Romer v. Evans that “enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply. (Romer v. Evans 517 U.S. 620) Many school districts in Florida have fully inclusive safe schools policies. They include‌ Alachua County Gadsden County Leon County Miami Dade County Okaloosa County Pinellas County

Broward County Hardee County Liberty County Monroe County Orange County Polk County


Clay County Hillsborough County Madison County Nassau County Palm Beach County Volusia County

VI. Campaign Timeline Now that you have all the background info, it’s time to start putting together the campaign to pass a local policy your community. Here are key elements important to passing your policy: n Put together your team. The first step in any campaign is to put together the team that is going to help you. Think of a few people (5-10) that will be dedicated to passing the policy. The most important quality of each of your teammates is commitment, but also think about what voices will be helpful. For instance, someone with a faith background might be important, or if your community has a large Hispanic population; someone who is a leader in the Hispanic community could be key to moving the process forward. Think of key stakeholders who might be important for lawmakers to hear from. n Do your research. It’s important to know exactly the climate you are working in before you start, that way you and your team are better able to plan your strategy. n What laws already exist? Does your community already have an HRO and you are adding to it, or do you need to create new law altogether? You can often check by calling the city and asking them. Be sure they send you a copy of whatever laws may already exist. n Know the process for passage. Once you understand what law you need to push for, you need to know how to pass that law. Many times, passing policies require two hearings by the full commission, but not always. Some policies can be passed on a consent agenda (lawmakers don’t vote on individual items, but vote in a large block). n Know your lawmakers. Once you understand passage, it’s important to understand who you are working with. Do some research on each of the members of the commission. Have they ever voted on LGBT legislation in the past? Or other social issues that might indicate how they would vote on your issue? What affiliations do they have? Search for clues on how friendly a legislator may be to the cause.


n Take a vote count. When you understand more about your lawmakers you can form a vote count, or an estimate of how many votes you think you have, and how many you think you need to get a majority. If your commission has 5 members, you need 3 votes. Divide up the commission into Yes Votes, No Votes and Swing Votes, people you think you might be able to convince. It is important to make an honest assessment, that way your team can make a realistic plan for success. n Find a sponsor. Identify the most friendly person on your commission or council, and set a meeting with them. Tell them about the issue, and why your community needs it, and ask them to sponsor the policy. If they agree, talk to them about your vote count and see if they have input as to how their colleagues would vote. Also, make sure to discuss your understanding of the process for passage and confirm it is correct. n Set a timeline. Once you get input from your sponsor, you and your team should set a timeline for passage depending on the process for passage and how much time you estimate it will take to get a majority of the commission on board. While it is ok for a plan to change, make sure you set measurable goals and deadlines for your team. That way you will ensure the process moves forward and doesn’t stall. n Round up your yes votes. Once you find a sponsor and set a timeline, it’s time to get the other members of the commission on board. Set meetings with the lawmakers you thought would vote Yes and present them with all of the information and ask how they would vote. n Educate your swing votes and turn them into yeses. After you get your yes votes on board, go to the swing votes and work on making them yes votes. Set a meeting with them and present your case. This should be primarily an information gathering meeting. Let the lawmaker do a lot of the talking and try to get a read on where they are on the issue. If they still seem on the fence, decide what you think would push them to a yes. Will hearing from hundreds of their constituents convince them? Or hearing from business leaders who support LGBT inclusion? n Public Education. It’s important to make sure your community is ready for such a change. Decide what ways you can educate your community on the issue, for instance by placing an op-ed in the local paper that explains why the issue is important. Reach out to groups that you think would support the policy change and bring them into the loop. n Getting the item on the agenda. Once you have a majority support on the commission, talk to your sponsor about getting the item on the agenda and prepare for a final vote on the issue. 12

n Turning out supporters. When you know the exact date and time the item will be on the agenda, start reaching out to your supporters and try to get them to the meeting. It will be important for legislators to see there are lots of people in the community who support adding LGBT people to the local nondiscrimination law or creating a domestic partnership registry. Often we ask our supporters to wear a color so they are easily identifiable in the commission chambers. Red is a color that has been used in several communities throughout the state. n Celebrate!

VII. Lobby Training 101 Having a face-to-face meeting with a lawmaker is one of the most effective things a concerned citizen can do. This is intended to be a guide to the general structure of a lobby visit and building out your team. Once you have a commissioner or council person who will sponsor the proposed ordinance it’s important to begin meeting with the other members of the body to secure enough votes for passage. Remember, you want strategize with your sponsor as to which other members are most likely to be supportive. Start with those members first, and then move on to folks you think may be on the fence.

Lobby Tips! n It is not necessary for you to be a technical expert about every aspect of the bill. What is important is for you to be a human face to these important issues. n If a lawmaker asks you a question you don’t know how to answer, the correct response is “I don’t know, but I can ask someone who does and have them follow up with you.” If you are asked a question you do not know the answer to, please e-mail Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director at and she will help get an answer for you.


n Dress appropriately. When having a meeting with a lawmaker it is important to dress professionally. Button up shirts, slacks, knee length dresses and closed toed shoes are examples of appropriate clothing. It is permissible to wear group or organizational t-shirts. n Be polite but firm. Always be polite and respectful when talking to a lawmaker. Sometimes you may get a lawmaker who obviously disagrees with you. Be firm in getting your point across but never be rude. n Don’t be intimidated. Remember, you have every right to talk to them about the issues that are important to you. n Be nice to the lawmaker’s aides. They run the show!

Step-by-Step Lobby Visit 1. Introduce yourself; if you are a constituent of theirs be sure to tell them. 2. Give background on the problem you are there to talk about. 3. If you have one, tell a personal story about how a law, or lack of a law, affects you or someone you know. 4. Deliver important talking points about the proposal. Key things to mention: if other places in Florida or businesses are already doing this; if there is a minimal fiscal impact; if this ordinance will help attract more businesses to the area. 5. Give them the solution to the problem. Tell them by supporting or voting for a particular bill they can remedy the problem. 6. Ask them point blank, “Will you support the proposed ordinance by [sponsor’s name]? 7. If they have questions you cannot answer, tell them you will get back to them. Write it down and send it to and we will get back to them. 8. Thank the lawmaker (always shake hands) and if there is follow up ask when you should follow up. 9. Let the rest of your team (the ones who may not have been in the visit, including your EQFL staff contact) know how the visit went!


Your Lobby Team There is a role for everyone on your lobby team. Decide as a team who will fill each role. 1. The Greeter. This person takes lead on greeting the legislator and introducing everyone in the group. 2. The Scribe/New Media Guru. The scribe takes notes in the meeting and ensures that everyone gets copies of it after the visit 3. The Story Teller. If someone has a personal story with discrimination this person should tell their story in 2-4 minutes to put a human face on the issue. 4. The Bill Expert. This person should feel comfortable with talking about the proposed ordinance. The Bill Expert will give a brief summary of the proposal and deliver the talking points. 5. The Closer. After your team describes the bill and shares a personal story, the Closer asks the legislator to support the bill. The Closer says, “Does this sound like a bill you can support?” If the legislator seems supportive, ask, “Will you co-sponsor this bill?”


Section Two: Executive Working with your Mayor There are many policies a Mayor can put into place, without legislative action, to create a more friendly environment for LGBT employees, and send a signal about the city’s commitment to diversity. If you have a friendly Mayor, you may want to work with her or him to enact the full range of pro-equality policies within their power. Here is a checklist of policies most Mayors will be able to enact:

1. Ensure that the nondiscrimination policy for city employees explicitly includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. 2. Include domestic partners in Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) medical leave provisions. 3. Ensure that diversity training for city employees includes LGBT people. 4. Form a LGBT Council or a Diversity Council, following the model of other similar councils (example Hispanic Council). 5. Establish and LGBT liaison to the police chief. 6. Provide transgender inclusive health care for city employees. 7. Enact a procurement policy that requires contractors with the city to have a nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT people; and require the contractor to provide the same benefits to domestic partners that are provided to married couples. If your Mayor has expressed interest in working to make your city or county LGBT inclusive, schedule a meeting with the Mayor, or staff and go through the checklist above to see which items (or all) that they would be willing to pursue. For help scheduling a meeting with your Mayor, or for questions, please contact


Section Three: Model Language To ensure your team has the best possible language, please use the following as example language to give to your bill sponsor. Using these tried and true policies will make sure your city or county has the most up to date language that provides the best possible protections for LGBT people. Human Rights Ordinance

Volusia County:

Domestic Partnership Registry Leon County: pdf Equal Benefits Ordinance Key West: Tax Equity Policy Miami Beach: Safe Schools Policy Broward County: PDFs/Anti-BullyPolicy-5-9.pdf For more information about any of the above policies, or for questions about starting a campaign in your area, please contact Mallory GarnerWells, Public Policy Director, at


PO Box 13184 St. Petersburg, FL 33733 (813) 870-3735 |


EQFL Pro-LGBT Public Policy Toolkit  
EQFL Pro-LGBT Public Policy Toolkit