These are the rights Miami’s LGBTQ community do and don’t have

The shooting at Pulse nightclub has prompted a lot of questions. One of those is whether the rights and protections for the LGBTQ community (or rather, the lack of them) created an environment that left those who packed Pulse on June 12 vulnerable.

This is a complicated question here, where local protections are sometimes stronger or at odds with those the state or federal government offers. 

Let’s consider laws at three different levels: national, state, and local. To begin, there’s NO law, nationally or statewide, that protects the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Locally, there are, but it’s a patchwork.

For example: Is it legal to fire someone if they’re LGBTQ?

U.S. law: Yes, it’s legal.

Florida law: Yes, it’s legal.

Miami-Dade law: No, that’s illegal because of a countywide law.

Miami/Miami Beach law: No, that’s illegal because of a citywide and a countywide law.

In total, 11 counties and 23 cities across Florida that have passed their own local nondiscrimination laws. 

With an election looming (the primary is Aug. 30 and the general election is Nov. 8), there is potential for some pretty big changes. There’s a U.S. Senate seat up for grabs, plus all 27 of the state’s U.S. House of Representatives seats. Most of Florida’s 40 Senate and 120 House of Representatives seats are being voted on as well. All the legislators and candidates bring with them their own opinions on what’s right. 

Some of these issues could become campaign issues — for example, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who is running for U.S. Senate, this week proposed a bill that would end the ban on gay men donating blood, a ban which got a lot of attention after the Pulse attack, for obvious reasons. There’s probably plenty more moves like that coming in the next couple months. 

Here are the rights and protections the LGBTQ community in Miami-Dade has on key issues — and what they’re still waiting on.

Housing, jobs, and accommodation

In Miami-Dade: You’re protected. Miami-Dade’s Human Rights Ordinance says you can’t get denied a lease, evicted from your home, thrown off a bus, or kicked out of a public restroom because you’re a part of the LGBTQ community. Two years ago, bathroom protections were added for the transgender community — which means they can use whatever bathroom they choose. However, in a place like Jacksonville (where there are no local protections), you could kick a transgender person out of a bathroom and it would be completely legal.

In Florida: In 2016, the Competitive Workforce Act (HB 41/ SB 120) failed. This was a statewide nondiscrimination law that would have protected employees on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in housing, employment, credit and public accommodations. That means only folks living in counties or cities with local laws are protected. It also means that it’s completely legal 56 counties of the state to fire someone just because they’re gay.

Nationwide: There’s no national protection, but The Equality Act, which would prohibit this type of discrimination, is in the works.

Health insurance and providers, adoption and foster care, and custom services and products (think haircuts, cab rides, custom-made signs, driver licenses — basically anything that can’t be purchased off the shelf as is)

In Miami-Dade: You’re protected. You can’t be denied custom services and products (which is basically anything you don’t buy off the shelf — think haircuts, cab rides, custom-made signs, driver licenses, etc.) You also can’t be denied by health insurance or adoption or foster care services solely on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In Florida: There’s no statewide protection, so if you live in a county or a city where there’s no local protection, you can be denied everything from a haircut to health insurance just for being gay.

In 2016, some lawmakers introduced the Protection of Religious Freedom bill (HB 401) which is basically a statewide preemption bill that would trump local protections. But it was so broad that it didn’t even reach the Senate, and so it failed.

Nationwide: Again, there’s no national protection, but The Equality Act, which would prohibit this type of discrimination, is in the works. 

Changing your gender on your driver’s license

In Florida: If you choose to identify with a different gender than the one on your driver’s license, you can change it — you just need to provide a signed document from your doctor stating you are receiving clinical treatment for gender transition.


In Florida: In 2010, the Supreme Court struck down Florida’s 33-year ban on gay and lesbian adoption. In 2015, Gov. Rick Scott, signed the repeal of the ban into law (HB 7013). (But why did it take five years? The Tampa Bay Times broke it down here.) 

Nationwide: The Supreme Court ruled that’s illegal across the country.

Blood donation

Across the U.S.: Men who have sex with men are prohibited by the FDA from donating blood unless they have not been sexually active for at least one year. The 12-month waiting period also applies to women who have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man in the last year.

We also checked in with SAVE, the leading group advocating for LGBTQ rights in South Florida, and asked them what’s on their wishlist.

  • Establishing statewide nondiscrimination laws.
  • Cleaning up gendered language around marriage — for example changing the language from man/woman to spouse/spouse on several documents.
  • Preventing preemption laws that bypass local nondiscrimination laws or marriage equality laws.
  • Preventing anti-trans laws that usually target bathrooms and locker rooms.

Roshan Nebhrajani and Erica Santiago contributed to this story.