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UNF Discrimination Study Proves the Need for an Updated Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville February 29, 2016


February 29, 2016

Contact: Evin Willman 904-655-7085

Contact: Meredith Johnson 904-322-9233


JACKSONVILLE, FL — The University of North Florida (UNF) recently released the results of an online survey that asked the Jacksonville lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community about their experiences and perceptions as they pertained to life in Jacksonville specifically around discrimination.

The study entitled “A Survey of LGBTQ Experiences, Discrimination, and Perceived Necessity for an LGBT Inclusive Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida” was authored by Danielle Krusemark and Lynne Carroll, PhD.

The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality (JCE) has been advocating for an update to our existing Human Rights Ordinance to ensure nondiscrimination protections are added based on the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation.

Opponents to changing the ordinance have argued there is not enough evidence of discrimination to justify making changes to the law. The newly released data shatters that myth.

The 2016 survey was completed by 211 LGBTQ respondents and more than half (57.4%) reported experiencing some form of discrimination based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity in Jacksonville in the last five years.  More importantly, 97% felt it was necessary to expand Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) to specifically include protections from discrimination for LGBT people.

The majority of survey participants reported experiencing discrimination in employment, with 27.5% indicating they experienced discrimination at their jobs, and 13.3% encountered discrimination during a job interview.  The second highest response for where discrimination had occurred was “Restaurant, club, or bar” (22.7%), which clearly aligns with the need for LGBT protections in public accommodations.  Other public accommodations and service locations where respondents noted discrimination included “My physician’s office (10.9%), “My school” (8.5%), “Hospital” (8.5%), “Adoption services” (3.3%), “Bank or loan office” (2.4%), and “Family planning” (1.4%).

“Housing” was also chosen by 7.1% of the respondents.

“If the data from this survey were extrapolated over the entire LGBT population of Jacksonville, it’s clear that thousands have been impacted by discrimination in the key areas an updated HRO would address,” said Dan Merkan, JCE Chair.

The survey also included questions about how the LGBT community perceives Jacksonville. It compared responses to the same or similar questions included in previous surveys conducted by assorted community groups. “The perceptions and opinions of LGBTQ people about Jacksonville have trended negatively since they were first asked in 2008 and there are serious implications here,” said Merkan.

In 2008, the LGBTQ participants were evenly divided with 34% either agreeing or disagreeing with the statement “Jacksonville is a city that embraces diversity.” The rest were unsure.  Similar results were found in 2011 (31% agree and 41% disagree).  Things shifted negatively in the 2014 and 2016 survey results, with strong majorities disagreeing with Jacksonville’s openness to diversity (78.92% in 2014 and 63% in 2016).  It was noted that the 2014 survey was the first time the LGBT community was asked the question after the stinging defeat of the HRO update in 2012.

Results also trended negatively in response to whether or not someone would recommend Jacksonville as a place to which an LGBT person should relocate. Responses of 54% in 2014 and 56% in 2016 said they would not recommend relocating here.

The Coalition has argued all along that a lack of an updated HRO has a serious impact in the perceptions the Jacksonville LGBTQ community has of its city.  “We hope the results of this survey will lead the Jacksonville City Council to be more thoughtful on how it moves forward in considering the legislation to update the HRO when it is reintroduced,” said Merkan.  “The current law is woefully inadequate, and the LGBT people who live here seem to be reluctant to encourage others to move here.  We can’t begin to guess how many well-qualified LGBT job applicants and creators have not brought their talent and treasure to the city because of these concerns and perceptions. The Council, and the Mayor, should pay attention to this timely information and use it wisely.”