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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 2, 202005:10 PM EST

Council to vote on Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance on June 9

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Three City Council committees advance bill reaffirming LGBT protections.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Three City Council committees passed a bill reaffirming LGBT protections in Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance after a state appellate court ruled the 2017 legislation unenforceable as written.

The full Council will vote June 9 on the bill, which provides language to address issues raised in the May 1 opinion by Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals. 

The court’s three-member panel of judges struck down the LGBT anti-discrimination provision of Ordinance 2017-15-E, declaring the ordinance unenforceable because there was not a full-text version of each amended provision in the bill showing the insertion of new language, according to Council documents.

Ordinance 2020-0244 received support from 13 of the 19 Council members over two days of committee votes June 1-2.

If the committee votes hold, the HRO fixes will pass the full Council.

The ordinance, introduced May 12 by Council member Aaron Bowman, inserts the language to comply with the court’s ruling.

In February 2017, Bowman co-introduced the Council-approved gender identity and sexual orientation protections for the city’s HRO. He introduced that bill with now-Council President-designate Tommy Hazouri and former Council member Jim Love.

Council approved the 2017 bill 12-6

Bowman, who chairs the Finance Committee, addressed the panel June 2 and referenced recent human rights issues at the center of nationwide protests and violence brought to a head by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“These last couple of weeks have been devastating to me to watch our racial tensions,” Bowman said. “This HRO is just common sense to me on treating people with dignity and respect.”

Before the vote, Bowman explained his 28 years in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot and as commanding officer of Naval Station Mayport that shaped his support for the ordinance’s LGBT protections. 

“That has driven my entire life, ensuring that everybody has a safe country, they’ve got the right for life, liberty, happiness and that we can live in the greatest country on the planet and preserve it that way,” Bowman said.

Council member Al Ferraro tried to convince members of the Neighborhoods Community Services, Health and Safety Committee to amend the legislation to take the question of an HRO to Duval County residents in a Nov. 3 straw ballot referendum. 

His proposal failed to gain support.

A public hearing for the bill May 26 lasted almost four hours as Jacksonville residents voiced support and opposition.

Last week, organizations representing Jacksonville’s business community came out in support of the HRO fix. 

The Civic Council, a group of about 75 CEOs from Northeast Florida companies and organizations, sent a letter in favor of the bill to Mayor Lenny Curry and Council President Scott Wilson.

The JAX Chamber board of directors voted unanimously May 21 to reaffirm its support of the HRO. 

Council support and opposition

Council Vice President-designate Sam Newby and member Randy White voted against the renewed HRO during the Neighborhoods Committee meeting on June 1.

The committee approved the bill 5-2. The Council Finance and Rules committees both voted 7-0 on June 2 to move the bill forward.

Ferraro, Wilson and members Garrett Dennis and Danny Becton have not voted on the latest HRO legislation, but Ferraro and Becton both voted against the HRO in 2017 along with Newby.

Voting to support the bill this week were Bowman, Hazouri, Matt Carlucci, Rory Diamond, Reggie Gaffney, Brenda Priestly Jackson, Joyce Morgan, LeAnna Cumber, Randy DeFoor, Terrance Freeman, Ju’Coby Pittman, Ron Salem and Micheal Boylan.

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