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Bipartisan coalition to push for ban against anti-gay and LGBT discrimination in the workplace

Looking ahead to the 2015 legislative session, Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce has hired a team of bipartisan political operatives to push for a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

President Obama's top 2012 Florida strategist, Ashley Walker, will be campaign manager of the coalition. She'll be joined by longtime Republican lobbyist TowsonFraser, who was communications director for former House Speaker Allan Bense; Ann Herberger, a Miami-based Republican fundraiser and an advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush; and Christina Johnson, a Tallahassee public relations executive who worked with the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee.

Johnson said she's not aware of any new legislation banning anti-gay and gender discrimination being filed yet for the 2015 session.

A bill to eliminate sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, failed to pass the 2014 legislature.

The House version was sponsored by Rep. Holly Merrill Raschein, a Key Largo Republican, and Rep. Joe Saunders, an openly gay Democrat from Orlando, who was defeated on Election Day. A Senate version of the measure was sponsored by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce is a nonprofit organization that incorporated in March and supports passing The Competitive Workforce Act, which would update state law to include anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Nineteen major Florida employers, including CSX Corporation, Darden Restaurants Inc., Florida Blue, Haskell, Home Shopping Network, Marriott, Tech Data Corporation, Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo and Winn Dixie, have joined the coalition.

"We are thrilled to have the caliber of these powerhouse organizations on board to lead our pro-business, anti-discrimination efforts in support of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act," Patrick Geraghty, the organization's president and Florida Blue CEO, said in a press statement.

Walker said "the link between strong anti-discrimination laws and the ability to draw the best and the brightest is the reason that 84 percent of the nation's largest companies have adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity."