Jacksonville lawmakers reject adding LGBT protections to human rights ordinance


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville City Council on Wednesday voted down a bill that would have expanded that city’s human rights ordinance to include protections for LGBT citizens in the areas of employment, housing, and hotel and restaurants.

The 10-9 vote ended three months of often contentious debate regarding actual discrimination against LGBT people in the city.

The principal question in the debate that should the city add sexual orientation to the list of protected groups, and how much enforcement power the city should have in cases of discrimination against the LGBT persons.

Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance already bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, age and disability.

The Florida Times Union noted that the deciding vote Wednesday came from City Councilman Johnny Gaffney, whom had previously had supported the bill when it went through committees. But Gaffney voted against and made no public remarks giving his reason for switching his support.

The Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of business leaders, supported the bill. They said the lack of local legal protection for gays and lesbians hurts the city’s ability to attract talented workers at a time when Jacksonville is competing with other cities for businesses.

The bill’s opponents said it would force people to compromise their moral beliefs. They also questioned whether the amount of discrimination against gays and lesbians rises to the level of requiring the government to become involved in the day-to-day affairs of businesses.

Councilman Bill Gulliford said the better response to intolerance is a public relations campaign, not more laws.

The legislation would not have allowed the city to pursue discrimination complaints through the courts.

LGBT individuals citing discrimination would have been required to seek voluntary mediation with the businesses, and the city’s human rights office would conduct investigations.

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