On June 9, the Jacksonville City Council quietly voted, 15-4, to amend the city’s human rights ordinance to include explicit protections for LGBTQ residents.
The Council previously approved legislation adding extending the ordinance’s nondiscrimination protections to include the LGBTQ community in February 2017 by 12-6 margin. But the law was overturned last month by the Florida 1st District Court of Appeals on technical grounds in response to a lawsuit filed by the anti-LGBTQ Liberty Counsel.
In its ruling, the court found no problems with the law’s content, but ruled that the Council had erred by approving the addition of LGBTQ protections via a blanket provision, when it should have amended the ordinance, section by section, by explicitly adding language granting protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
In response, Council member Aaron Bowman, who co-sponsored the original 2017 law, added language intended to comply with the court’s ruling. Last week, Bowman testified before a Council committee that his 28 years in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot and as commanding officer of Naval Station Mayport influenced his support for LGBTQ protections, reports the Jacksonville Daily Record.
“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.
Notably, Bowman is the senior vice president of business development for JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of JAX Chamber, the local chamber of commerce, which is one of the many business organizations that supported the original ordinance, along with the Jacksonville Civic Council.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry (R) has promised to sign the ordinance into law if the Council approved the revised protections. Curry previously allowed the 2017 ordinance to go into effect without his signature.
Jimmy Midyette, the legal director for the Coalition for Equality, which had pushed for an LGBTQ-inclusive ordinance dating back as far as 2012, noted that many in the LGBTQ community became concerned that their rights were going to be eroded when the court’s decision came down. He argued that the LGBTQ protections — which remained in place, as the city was never blocked from enforcing the ordinance’s provisions — has allowed LGBTQ people to bring complaints of alleged discrimination before the city and increase the sense that their concerns are being heard.
“During those three years, real people here in Jacksonville have gone to the Human Rights Commission, have had their case resolved, and benefitted from this law,” he said. “It’s not just a feel-good measure. It does actual good.”
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