Jacksonville Must Decide What’s Next for Human Rights Ordinance

An appeals court threw out Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance (HRO) and now the city must decide what to do with it next.

The HRO was passed by the City Council in 2017 on a 12-6 vote and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry let it pass without his signature. The ordinance assures that people cannot be discriminated against in housing, employment or public accommodation for sexual orientation or gender identity.

Liberty Counsel sued to overturn the ordinance but lost twice in court. The full 1st District Court of Appeals overturned the ordinance by unanimous vote though on what amounts to somewhat of a technicality. When the ordinance was passed, there were several amendments that were agreed to by the City Council but these amendments were not written out and the full text of them was not published.

 Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s assistant VP of legal affairs, weighed in on the ruling.

“This decision exposes the deception of the HRO authors and sponsors and rejects the city’s attempt to cover it up with its own deception in the form of clever procedural maneuvers in the city council. A city ordinance that cannot be passed openly and honestly is good for no one. The fair and honest people of Jacksonville should not be forced to participate in others’ celebrations of same-sex relationships under threat of fines or loss of their businesses, and Jacksonville’s women and young girls should feel safe from predatory men in their own restrooms and facilities. We are thankful that the appellate court corrected the trial court’s errors,” Gannam said.

Equality Florida had pushed hard for this ordinance. The group’s Public Policy Director John Harris Mauer said that support for the ordinance has only grown during the past three years.

“It’s been functioning well in Jacksonville for three years now, so we are looking for the City Council to reaffirm its support for these sort of protections,” said Mauer.

After a robust campaign to bring an HRO to Jacksonville, now Equality Florida and Harris have to get Curry to bring the ordinance back to the full City Council for a new vote with all of the public notices met.

“These protections are important because there are actually cases being considered right now under these local protections in Jacksonville. Beyond that, they also send a really important message about Jacksonville and other municipalities being open and welcoming places. It’s part of the reason we have seen so many businesses stand in support of these sort of protections,” Mauer said.

Liberty Council plans to continue to fight the HRO in court.

Florida Daily reached out to Curry’s office to ask when the HRO will be brought back but Curry’s team did not respond to Florida Daily’s request for comment on the matter.

 

Reach Mike Synan at mike.synan@floridadaily.com.

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