Press Release – JACKSONVILLE, FL — Today, after years of hard work and courageous advocacy from the local LGBTQ residents, businesses owners, faith voices and community leaders, the Jacksonville City Council has voted to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression by a 12 to 6 vote.
This update modernizes the existing city ordinance which previously banned discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations (such as restaurants and stores) based solely on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or familial status.
“After years of hard work and courageous advocacy, Jacksonville has sent a clear message to Florida and the entire country that discrimination of any kind is wrong and that LGBTQ people are welcomed and accepted,” said Amber Paoloemilio, Field Director of Equality Florida.
Over the last five years, because of the personal stories from LGBTQ people, business owners, and faith leaders, Jacksonville public opinion has transformed. Based on a 2015 poll conducted by the University of North Florida, over 62% of voters support this important update to the Human Rights Ordinance.
Equality Florida and the Jacksonville Coalition For Equality (JCE) applaud the efforts of over 10,000 Jacksonville residents who have voiced their support for this update. The LGBTQ community, alongside a coalition of over 700 small businesses and 200 faith leaders, has demonstrated the urgent need for these protections so that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the opportunity to earn a living and provide for their families.
“As a transgender woman, I applaud the efforts of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, Equality Florida, and the Jacksonville City Council for helping our city take an important step today,” said Tricia Russell, Statewide Equality Florida Board Member and long time Jacksonville resident. “Transgender people face a disproportionate amount of discrimination and harassment in our community and our state. This law will help ensure that all people, regardless if they are gay or transgender, will have the opportunity to earn a living, rent a hotel room, or go to a restaurant without fear of being discriminated against.”
Before a packed council hall, the council voted on many amendments before the final vote to approve. We applaud Council Members that rejected an amendment to put this issue on a referendum vote and the Council Members that voted against an amendment to leave out transgender Jacksonville residents from this bill. Both amendments failed on the floor.
The council did pass a separate amendment that specified that federally-defined religious organizations would be exempt. We are committed to working with the team on the ground, from small business owners to faith leaders, to improve this part of the ordinance and ensure full and equal protections for LGBTQ people.
“As we celebrate the passage of an updated Human Rights Ordinance, we do so knowing that while this bill is not perfect, it is a historic step to ensure that all Jacksonville residents can live, work, and play in this great city without the threat of discrimination. I feel confident that the residents of Jacksonville and the City Council will use the incredible energy and passion from our supporters to continue advocating for truly equal protection under the law,” Paoloemilio added.