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#JaxHRO Supporters Pack City Hall, Break Attendance Records To Call On City Council To Update LGBT Non-discrimination Protections January 25, 2017

The City Council meeting that started yesterday evening at 5 p.m. finally wrapped up this morning, after a cumulative of ten hours of testimony—the bulk of which was in support of the #JaxHRO.

As the meeting’s 5 p.m. start time neared yesterday, people starting lining up to provide testimony until the queue snaked down the street past City Hall and around the corner. Yesterday’s testimony ran until midnight, the pre-designated cut-off time. The Council reconvened today at 9 a.m. to accommodate 90 people who had not yet had the opportunity to testify as the meeting went into recess.

crowd shot jaxhro

A final count confirmed that more than 600 people attended last night, packing the Council Chambers and filling two overflow rooms at City Hall. Ultimately, the main branch of the Jacksonville Public Library was opened to provide more overflow space, and it quickly filled to capacity. Some of the reporters covering the event even mentioned that it was the most crowded City Council meeting they’d ever witnessed.

The overwhelming majority of those 600+ attendees were supporters of LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections. When the roll was called on Tuesday night, 504 attendees submitted cards supporting the #JaxHRO; the opposition submitted only 193.

Among those speakers was Tricia Russell, a 30-year resident of Jacksonville and transgender woman who recalled her experience with discrimination and harassment—but without LGBT-inclusive protections on the books in Jacksonville, Tricia had no legal recourse.

Two transgender teenagers, Drew and Dan, also testified in favor of the #JaxHRO. Drew laid out a simple point to City Council members: LGBT people contribute so many positive things to Jacksonville’s economy and culture. And yet, they can’t expect protection from harm in return:

The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality’s 200+ member faith leaders coalition was also well represented. When Reverend William Hamilton spoke this morning, he made it clear that he was there to support his LGBT brothers and sisters because of—not in spite of—his faith.

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Kicking off the morning with inspiring faith support for the #JaxHRO! Rev. William Hamilton: “My support is about my faith.” #JaxPol pic.twitter.com/TySiECu8C0

And Jacksonville’s business community came out strong as well. That included Jax Chamber Chair Darnell Smith, whose organization has long supported the #JaxHRO because it’s the right thing to do for Jacksonville’s LGBT residents—but also because it would help the city retain and attract businesses and talented workers, boosting the economy in the long-term.

After last night’s hearing, our attention now turns to the Council committees, which will continue to debate the #JaxHRO through the beginning of February. Those committees are expected to hold votes from February 6th through 8th, with the final full Council vote expected on February 14th.

In the coming weeks, we must keep up the pressure on City Council members. Send a message now telling City Council: Pass the #JaxHRO on February 14th.