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Jacksonville City Council approves historic protections for LGBT community February 14, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Tuesday evening, the Jacksonville City Council voted to update its human rights ordinances to provide nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In a 12 – 6 vote, the council established nondiscrimination protections in housing, employment and public accommodations, such as restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues.  The measure will become law.

“This is an historic moment for Jacksonville and for everyone who believes in equality under the law,” Dan Merkan, chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, said. “For the first time, most people living in or visiting Jacksonville will be protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The new nondiscrimination protections passed after a diverse coalition of business, faith and civic leaders, as well as members of the LGBT community, and everyday residents, rallied to have the measure introduced.

“Discrimination goes against the very values that our community holds dear,” Merkan added. “While the measure is not perfect, it is a critical step to ensuring that everyone in Jacksonville can live, work and visit without having to constantly fear discrimination.”

The council adopted language to change the HRO bill, including an amendment that broadly defined what is considered a religious entity.  

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the LGBT community and their families are protected from discrimination, and this ordinance brings us much closer to that goal,” Merkan added. “We hope that this measure will not only protect the LGBT community, but that it will be a sign to the rest of the country that Jacksonville is an open and welcoming place for everyone.”

The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality was the driving force behind the ordinance. The Coalition is made up of more than 700 business leaders and 200 clergy members who supported advancing nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals and their families. The Coalition drove residents to send more than 80,000 emails to council members, asking them to support the ordinance.