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Hundreds of Supporters of Equality Pack Council Chambers for 1st #JaxHRO Reading and Public Hearing January 11, 2017

Last night, Jacksonville residents packed the City Council chambers to voice their thoughts on the #JaxHRO during its first official reading—and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

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More than 100 people were signed up to provide public comment, and the vast majority of them were there to show support for expanding Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance. Over the two-hour meeting dozens of advocates from all walks of life waited patiently to tell the Council why these updates are so important.

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One of those speakers was Darnell Smith, who chairs the Jacksonville  Chamber of Commerce. He spoke about the need to promote business interests in Jacksonville, and he lauded the #JaxHRO as a way to do that while still respecting the diverse beliefs of city residents. Other speakers concerned with Jacksonville’s economy noted that many millennial workers—who are the future of our nation’s workforce—are leaving Jacksonville for more inclusive cities.

Another resident, Janice, said the #JaxHRO is simply about wanting to be shown respect in the place she loves and calls home. For people like her and Jake Moore, who was refused service at a spa in Georgia because of his gender identity, the #JaxHRO would transform their daily lives. Jake detailed his harrowing experience in front of the Council—and, he said, without LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections, there’s nothing to stop the same thing from happening in Jacksonville.

A former Atlantic Beach commissioner also testified and said that in the three years since that city passed an inclusive HRO, there has been only positive change.

The Council will convene for a second reading of the proposed ordinance on January 24. That meeting will include a public forum during which anyone will be allowed to testify in support of the bill. There’s no time limit on this meeting, meaning we’ll be asking all of our supporters in the coming weeks if they’d be willing to speak in front of the Council. If you have a story to share, you can share it here and we may reach out.

After this second reading, the Council committees will start an in-depth review of the proposed ordinance. If that process moves quickly, the full Council could vote on the ordinance as early as February 14th.

We need to be ready. If you support the #JaxHRO and want to see it pass without delay, click here to sign our pledge urging the City Council to support it too.