Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance survives motion to withdraw

By : Jamie Hyman
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An LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance is still alive in Jacksonville, despite a motion to withdraw.

At their Feb. 4 meeting, the Jacksonville City Council heard discussion on two proposals relating to LGBT protections.

Councilman Bill Gulliford wants the expanded HRO protections be voted on through a referendum. Councilman Tommy Hazouriwants an expanded HRO that adds sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to existing protections from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. Gulliford and Hazouri presented their cases, and the council members debated for about two hours.

Much of that debate hinged on Mayor Lenny Curry’s Jan. 29 memo stating his belief that Jacksonville should not update its HRO to include LGBT protections, though Curry has made it clear that he supports equal protections via “direct action” from the mayor’s office. Then came public comment, which was about evenly divided.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer made the motion to withdraw both proposals, which failed in an 11-8 vote.

The Feb. 4 meeting was just the first of three special meetings the council is holding to discuss the HRO. They follow three well-attended and contentious town hall meetings allowing the public to discuss the proposal. After the first one, a man was arrested for making a bomb threat, and the KKK distributed anti-gay fliers in a Jacksonville neighborhood.

On Jan. 26, the Jax Chamber announced their support for expanding the HRO protections.

A similar proposal failed in 2012. In 2015, 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, despite Jacksonville having a larger percentage of LGBT residents than any other metro area in Florida.

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