Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance threatened on the federal level by new bill

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. | Jacksonville’s City Council approved an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBTQ community less than a year ago, but those protections are already in danger at the state level.

Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant has introduced House Bill 871. It would allow businesses to set their policies in accordance to their religious beliefs—something Jacksonville attorney and LGBT activist Jimmy Midyette calls “insidious.”

“It’s frightening for those of us who care about civil liberties,” Midyette says. “It’s pretext. What this law does is create a pretext for every person to discriminate against any person at any time. It’s a license to discriminate.”

On Twitter, Fant cited the recent Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which an anti-LGBTQ Christian baker refused to sell a same-sex couple a wedding cake, as the reason for the bill’s filing.

“In Florida, we’re not gonna sit around and leave liberty up to dispute,” he tweeted. He further advised the bill was filed so that “business owners don’t have to live in fear of social justice zealots.”

For Midyette, who worked to pass Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, he believes that “Representative Fant senses a moment here. There are ‘legitimate’ religions in this county that are opposed to interracial marriage, mostly within the white supremacy movement.”

It’s that reasoning that Midyette says would allow groups like white supremacists to invoke protections from the bill, no matter what they do or serve.

“That’s the ultimate danger with a law like this,” he says. “It’s not limited to the LGBT community. This could be their way to essentially reintroduce Jim Crow.”

Fant, a Jacksonville resident, is also currently running for Florida attorney general, pledging “to fight for small business owners and to protect the most vulnerable.”

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