Feb. 4 marks the first of three “committee of the whole” meetings, where the Jacksonville City Council will discuss a proposed LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance.
The revised HRO is contentious, and has been on quite the journey so far.
A similar proposal failed in 2012. In 2015, after a report concluded Jacksonville is the only major Florida city without protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations, mayor Lenny Curry hosted three “Community Conversations” on the topic. After the first one, a man was arrested for making a bomb threat and the KKK distributed anti-gay fliers in a Jacksonville neighborhood.
Following the town hall meetings, two council members have filed proposals regarding the HRO. Councilman Bill Gulliford filed a bill pushing to have the expanded HRO protections be voted on through a referendum. Councilman Tommy Hazouri filed an expanded HRO that adds sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to existing protections from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Although the Feb. 4 meeting is the first time the HRO is officially on the city council agenda, it has already been a topic for two intense public sessions during regular meetings, once on Jan. 12 and again Jan. 26. The Jan. 12 session was notable because a speaker attempting to fight the LGBT-inclusive HRO stepped up to the podium and confessed to being a child molester.