JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 296. It seems in the city of Jacksonville, never before have those three numbers meant so much to so many. This is the bill that would expand the city’s human rights ordinance to include sexual orientation.
And as the vote approaches, the passion intensifies.
"There is no reason to enforce this on people. The ramifications won't be pretty. It won't be good,” said Coral Ridge Senior Pastor Jeff Burnsed.
From pastors, like Burnsed, arguing gay rights are different than civil rights and should be voted down, to equality groups, like Jacksonville Committee for Equality, scheduling massive community rallies in support... it seems everyone has an opinion.
But one state organization, Florida Family Action, is trying a new tactic. It says a vote yes will open the door to the legalization of gay marriage.
"That's really what the endgame is and voters need to understand that, the councilmen need to understand that,” said John Stemberger, President of Florida Family Policy Council.
In a press release sent out Friday, Florida Family Action says “local ordinances of this nature have been consistently used as legal precedent for introducing gay marriage.”
Standing on that side is Pastor Burnsed who says he’s already preparing his congregation for a long Wednesday night at City Hall.
"They have everything ready and they will be there early. They'll be there in good taste, but they'll be there,” said Burnsed.
Action News reached out Equality Florida for comment Friday afternoon, but they were unable to call us back before broadcast. A rally in support of the human rights ordinance expansion is planned for Monday evening in Memorial Park.
City Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at their next meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15.