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Expansion of Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance to include LGBT community becomes law

by: Action News Jax, News 104.5 WOKV Updated:

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The Jacksonville City Council voted to expand the Human Rights Ordinance on Tuesday.

A crowd of people celebrated outside City Hall after the bill to expand the ordinance was passed.

The measure passed 12-6, with Councilwoman Katrina Brown being absent. She was expected to vote yes.

The bill, sponsored by Council Members Aaron Bowman, Tommy Hazouri and Jim Love, added the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing HRO which prohibits discrimination for public accommodations, employment and housing.

Mayor Lenny Curry returned the bill without a signature, making the HRO expansion law. 


Jacksonville councilman: Passage of expanded HRO bill was 'long, winding road'


Amendments to the bill exempted religious organizations from complying with the order, expanded the exemption for small businesses from 15 or fewer employees to 50 or fewer and eliminated jail time as a penalty for violating the HRO in any way.

An effort to put the bill up for a referendum, a repeated suggestion by Councilman Bill Gulliford over the years, was voted down. 

In 2016, two bills to expand the HRO were withdrawn and in 2012, the City Council voted against the expansion of the HRO.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of LGBT rights organization GLAAD, tweeted about the City Council's Tuesday night vote, calling it "refreshing."

ACLU of Florida political director Kirk Bailey released the following statement, saying that the ordinance "falls short."

“It is significant that one of the largest cities that had not yet done so has acknowledged that LGBT people deserve explicit protection against discrimination. However, this ordinance falls short of fully providing those protections.
“The broad religious exemption included in this ordinance legalizes discrimination against LGBT people and only LGBT people. Jacksonville’s laws already ensure that religious organizations can conduct their religious activities as they see fit, and protecting LGBT people doesn’t change that. But the exemption in the ordinance will allow a religiously-affiliated school to fire a gay janitor, or a religiously-affiliated homeless shelter to turn away a transgender person or a same-sex couple. It sends the message that Jacksonville thinks that LGBT discrimination is different, and more legitimate, than other forms of discrimination – and even permissible for certain institutions.
“Today’s vote was an important milestone, but it is not the end of this fight. We intend to continue working in the community until LGBT people in Jacksonville enjoy full and equal protection under the law."

City Hall reached capacity hours before a vote would occur, forcing officials to open up overflow rooms to accommodate the crowd.

Here is how each City Council member voted on the bill on Tuesday night:

Matt Schellenberg - No
Reggie Gaffney - Yes
Aaron Bowman - Yes
Reginald Brown - Yes
Greg Anderson - Yes
Al Ferraro - No
Samuel Newby - No
Anna Lopez Brosche - Yes
John Crescimbeni - Yes
Lori Boyer, council president - Yes
Garret Dennis  -Yes
Jim Love - Yes
Joyce Morgan - Yes
Scott Wilson- yes
Katrina Brown - Absent
Danny Becton - No
Doyle Carter - No
Bill Gulliford - No
Tommy Hazouri - Yes
 

Supporters, opponents voice their opinion as expansion of Jacksonville's HRO becomes law
Hazouri, who voted for the expansion, said the vote "was really positive" about not leaving anyone behind.
 
"It’s about everybody, it’s about gender identity, it’s about sexual orientation, it’s about housing, employment, and public accommodations, for the rest of the city and not just those that has been covered all of these years," Hazouri said.
 
Gulliford, who voted against the expansion, wanted to allow the public to vote on the HRO, but that was struck down by City Council.
 
"I think that was the only way to resolve it, I think that would have put it to bed once and for all," Gulliford said.