The Jacksonville Civic Council reaffirmed its support of LGBT protections in the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, as an appellate court ruling brings the issue back to City Council for technical fixes.
The Civic Council, a group of about 75 CEOs from Northeast Florida companies and organizations, sent an open letter to Mayor Lenny Curry and Council President Scott Wilson on May 26 supporting new legislation that reaffirms protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation for the LGBT community, first passed by city lawmakers in February 2017.
A three-member panel of judges from Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals struck down the LGBT anti-discrimination provision of Ordinance 2017-15-E on May 1, 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.
The fix included in Ordinance 2020-0244, introduced May 12 by Council member Aaron Bowman and co-sponsored by Council members LeAnna Cumber and Matt Carlucci, inserts the language to comply with the court’s ruling.
The bill is scheduled for public hearing at Council’s meeting May 26.
The Civic Council’s letter, signed by CEO and President Jeanne Miller and the group’s Chairman and former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, consolidates further support by Duval County’s business community for LGBT protections in the city’s ordinance code. It follows a unanimous vote May 21 by the JAX Chamber board of directors to reaffirm its support for the HRO.
This is the Civic Council’s letter to Curry and Wilson:
“As you know, the Jacksonville Civic Council has consistently supported a Human Rights Ordinance to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community. We are writing today to assure you that our position remains unchanged in the wake of the 1st District Court of Appeals’ recent decision on process technicalities in the recent passage of an HRO, and to request your support for the legislative remedy currently before the Jacksonville City Council.
“In the past, the absence of a Human Rights Ordinance was a detriment to the economic and cultural development of our community, as Jacksonville was one of the few remaining major cities in Florida without such an ordinance. The passage of an HRO in 2017 strengthened our economy, made Jacksonville more attractive to people and businesses, and advanced a culture of fairness and respect for all. We urge you to preserve those advantages on behalf of all residents of Jacksonville by supporting Ordinance 2020-244.
“The bill before you does not create a tort, and was developed with extensive input from a broad spectrum of local business, civic and faith leaders. It protects the LGBT community from discrimination while preserving individual rights to religious freedom and not imposing a burden on small business. Its passage is a top priority for the Jacksonville Civic Council and the business community.
“Once again, we respectfully ask you to join the majority of Florida and U.S. cities in affirmatively protecting Jacksonville’s citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. When everyone in our community has an equal right to live and work without fear of discrimination, we all prosper.”
Approved in 2017
The Jacksonville City Council approved the anti-LGBT discrimination language to the city code in February 2017 in a 12-6 vote after five weeks of debate.
About two hours after the vote, Curry sent the bill back to Council without his signature, but with the message he would not veto the decision.
Council member Tommy Hazouri sponsored the original bill in 2017 along with Bowman and former Council member Jim Love.
Opponents argued the language discriminated against small business owners who would be vulnerable to lawsuits that might result from the ordinance.
Former Council member Bill Gulliford, one of the most vocal opponents of the ordinance, tried to put the issue to a voter referendum and attempted to remove protection based on gender identity. Both moves failed.
Daily Record Associate Editor Max Marbut contributed to this report.