Conservative social activist John Stemberger, who leads the Florida Family Policy Council, is calling for the resignation of the new chairman of the Florida Republican Party Joe Gruters. Stemberger says legislation filed by Gruters, in his capacity as a state senator, would give added protection for LGBTQ Floridians while discriminating against people who profess Christian values.
“If passed, this bill will be used as a weapon to punish Christians for simply acting out their faith as small businessmen or private individuals,” Stemberger said. “Gruters is totally out of step with the base of the GOP, state legislative leadership, Governor DeSantis’ agenda, the Republican President of the United States and even the most recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion on similar statutes.”
The legislation, Senate bill 438, amends Florida’s Civil Rights Act to require that a person can’t be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill adds to other protected classes of race, color, religion, sex,
pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, and marital status.
Senator Gruters fired back at Stemberger’s demand that he resign. “This is common sense – you shouldn’t be fired for being gay,” said Gruters. “It’s baffling that Mr. Stemberger has chosen to deliberately misrepresent my bill and question by Christian faith.”
Gruters’ legislation specifically includes a provision saying the proposed changes don’t “limit the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the State Constitution.” The bill also keeps in current Florida law an exemption for religious corporations and institutions.
Quick to rush to Gruters’ defense was Northwest Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz who said on social media, “The modern GOP must stand to protect the rights of EVERYONE – including the LGBT community. I’m proud of
@JoeGruters for understanding this.”