Rainbow lights from the Jacksonville skyline reflect on the waterPhoto: Shutterstock
On Tuesday, a 15-4 vote by the Jacksonville City Council restored the town’s LGBTQ non-discrimination protections after a Florida appeals court struck it down due to a legislative technicality in May.
Mayor Lenny Curry has signaled that he will sign the ordinance. It will go into effect as soon as it reaches his desk.
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Soon after the city amended its human rights ordinance in 2017 to include sexual orientation and gender identity in its 28 sections prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, the Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group that regularly challenges the expansion of LGBTQ civil rights, filed a civil suit seeking to overturn the ordinance.
The Liberty Counsel wrote that their clients were “deprived of their right to adequate notice, and that they had suffered or will suffer injuries to their rights of privacy, religious conscience, and business interests under the Code as amended.” The 1st District Court of Appeals agreed with the hate group’s assertion and struck the new ordinance down in May 2020.
While the court didn’t rule on whether the new ordinance violates anyone’s religious freedom or right to privacy, it did rule that the city council hadn’t followed state law which requires cities to publicly re-publish the text of any altered ordinances before voting on changes.
In this case, the Jacksonville City Council failed to show how the insertion of sexual orientation and gender identity would change the city’s pre-existing human rights ordinance. Instead, they just listed the pre-existing human rights ordinances by number and wrote that sexual orientation and gender identity would simply be added.
Now that the Jacksonville City Council has essentially re-passed the same ordinance, it remains to be seen whether The Liberty Counsel will try and overturn it again. This time the council made sure to follow all the technicalities required by law.
“The truth is, this is the same bad ordinance that opens women’s private facilities to men, coerces Christian business owners to violate their consciences, and does not solve any actual discrimination problem,” said Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs.
Despite the hate group’s hand-wringing, the Jacksonville ordinance includes exemptions for small businesses and religious institutions and doesn’t cover bathroom use. Any discrimination complaints will be investigated by the city’s Human Rights Commission, and violations will be punishable by a $500 fine.