Members of the public voiced their support Tuesday to City Council for an ordinance amendment to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for housing, employment and public accommodations.
In an unofficial count of those who spoke, 80 were in favor of the bill and 18 were opposed.
A public hearing on the bill took close to six hours. Council members will debate the legislation in committees the first week of June and a full Council vote is scheduled June 12.
Many of the speakers spent their allotted three minutes to talk about how their lives were negatively impacted by the discrimination the legislation seeks to ban.
Although more than 200 speaker cards were filled out, not all came to the podium to address Council.
Some supporters said they spoke for those who could not attend because of potential housing and workplace repercussions.
Others said they spoke on behalf of young people who have fled the city looking for a more accepting environment.
University of North Florida President and former Mayor John Delaney, former mayoral candidate Audrey Moran and Acosta Sales & Marketing Executive Chairman Gary Chartrand were among the business and public leaders speaking in support of the bill.
“This bill is good for Jacksonville. It is good for attracting and retaining a strong business community. It is good for attracting talented individuals in a global marketplace. And it is the right thing to do,” Moran told Council members.
Several who spoke against the legislation framed their stance on religious beliefs or how the language would violate personal freedoms by creating a preferred class.
Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, read a statement in opposition on behalf of several of his colleagues who “strenuously oppose” the legislation.
“The proposed ordinance, in our opinion, has nothing to do with fairness in hiring or retention of employees,” Brunson said.
“(It) has everything to do with legally mandating those of us who have conscientiously held religious or moral beliefs contrary to the lifestyles, not the persons, into accepting their described lifestyles as good for the economic and social benefit of our citizens,” he said.
Brunson said that if the legislation passed, it would discriminate against the religious communities.
Council President Stephen Joost moved the public hearing earlier on the agenda. It started about 7 p.m. After a 9 p.m. break, it was put on hold at 11 p.m. so Council could complete its other business.
At the 11 p.m. break, Joost asked members of the public to show their support or opposition to the legislation by standing in response. Most stood in favor, then left.
The public hearing resumed on the topic around midnight and continued until just before 1 a.m. The meeting ended just after 1 a.m.