Jacksonville City Council hears debate over potential expansion of Human Rights Ordinance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hundreds of people showed up to discuss whether Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance should be expanded to protect the LGBT community.

Public comment lasted more than three hours. People on both sides of the issue are very passionate, but not many council members would commit to what they think should be done next.

The line was long outside city council chambers as people filed in well before the 5 p.m. meeting. Inside the chamber was standing room only as people on both sides of the Human Rights Ordinance sat side by side, waiting to speak before council.

“They have the same rights I have,” said Virginia Ackerman.

"I'm transgender and I'd look grossly out of place in a men's room. It's not about men in dresses, it's about people's identity," said supporter Monica Depaul.

For weeks, Mayor Lenny Curry has hosted community events listening to both sides of the issue. The proposal includes extending rights to the LGBT community. Supporters say its needed to keep Jacksonville competitive.

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“Look at the number of businesses that want this to pass. It’s clear this is a big selling point if it does pass,” said Depaul.

"They have no right to put laws on the books that are gonna discriminate against me," said Ackerman.

Now it will be up to council to decide. The vote failed in 2012, but with a mostly new City Council, some hope this time will be different. Right now there are two proposals, one saying council should make the decision.

The second says voters should decide. While the two proposals are pending, some new council members we spoke to aren’t ready to say how they’ll vote just yet.

“I’m looking forward to hearing more about why (City Councilman Bill) Gulliford believes it should be from the voters, and then I’ll make a decision,” said Councilwoman Anna Broche.

“I’ll make a decision after public comment,” said Councilman Scott Wilson.

City leaders are going to hold three meetings on this with the full council before taking a vote. They start in February.

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