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2016: A Year Of Milestones for Our Movement to Pass The #JaxHRO December 21, 2016

Looking back on 2016, it’s nothing short of remarkable what we have accomplished.


It seems like every month we realized another victory in the fight to ensure LGBT people are fully protected from discrimination in Jacksonville—a series of events that built unbeatable momentum and led us to this moment, where we are on the cusp of seeing the City Council introduce a fully inclusive HRO in the first weeks of 2017.

This year is a testament to what our movement can achieve when we build a broad coalition of local civic and business leaders, people of faith, community activists and LGBT people and allies across our great city. With all of us working hard, there will be many more victories ahead—but first, let’s celebrate our top moments from 2016.

6. Mayor Curry signs executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in city hiring

Our movement realized a big victory right off the bat this year when Mayor Lenny Curry signed an executive order in January that extended the city government’s protections against employment discrimination to LGBT workers.

The Mayor’s decision came after we hosted three “Community Conversations” on the topic of discrimination in late 2015. This executive order brought the city of Jacksonville in line with federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission standards, which have recently been interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination under the umbrella of sex discrimination.

Additionally, the Mayor’s order stated all those who contract with the city must also protect their employees on the same standard—a move that expanded these critical protections to even more than the 10% of Jacksonville workers who are local government employees.

5. 650+ businesses spoke out for the #JaxHRO, including the Jax Chamber

600 Twitter

In August we celebrated a major coalition-building milestone: More than 600 local businesses officially pledged their support for the #JaxHRO.

This group included Jacksonville’s largest employers and leading business voices—including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and the Jax Chamber. More recent additions to the always-growing list of businesses publicly supporting passage of an updated HRO include Moxie, Holland & Knight and Yoga for Change.

Local businesses have always been a key source of support for the #JaxHRO, but in the latter half of 2016 the rate at which businesses signed on to our pledge of support was greater than we had ever seen before.

“Businesses and nonprofit organizations are joining with us at a faster pace than we have ever experienced before—more than 100 small and large companies and organizations have signed our pledge of support since the middle of June. It’s gratifying to see all of these businesses, along with a growing coalition of more than 140 faith leaders, Democrats, Republicans, LGBT people and allies, unite behind the core belief that our city is stronger when our laws ensure that everyone is protected from discrimination.” —Dan Merkan, JCE Campaign Chair

As we near the end of the year, this list is approaching 700 members. We’ll be sure to let the world know when it does—we’re sure it won’t be long.

4. More than 175 local faith leaders joined our coalition

Faith Twitter

Business weren’t the only group whose support for the #JaxHRO grew exponentially in 2016. The very next month, in September, our faith coalition officially reached 150 members—and then quickly blew past that figure.

The coalition includes faith leaders from diverse backgrounds and traditions who stand united with one goal: passing LGBT non-discrimination protections because of, not in spite of, their faith.

The coalition also participated in several events, including a training hosted by GLAAD and the organization Faith in Public Life. The training provided resources for local faith leaders who are committed to speaking out publicly about their support for the #JaxHRO. One JAX also hosted a “Faith Matters” radio program, and dedicated a whole show to discussing the need to update the local HRO

Currently the coalition includes more than 190 members.

3. Five local government authorities updated their employment non-discrimination policies

Authorities Twitter

In September the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, JEA, Jacksonville Port Authority and Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced they would update their employment and hiring policies to protect LGBT workers from discrimination.

The JCE had reached out to all of these authorities and encouraged them to follow the example set by Mayor Curry in January. The move toward LGBT-inclusive employment policies from local government agencies means more workers than ever before are protected from employment discrimination in Jacksonville.

But the good effects from these changes were even wider-reaching. When the Human Rights Campaign released Jacksonville’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) 2016 score this Fall it had nearly doubled from the previous year in large part due to the directives issued by these organizations and Mayor Curry.

2. A UNF poll shows 64% of Jacksonville residents support LGBT protections


In May the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory released their 2016 “Jax Speaks” poll, which showed that a strong 64% majority of Jacksonville residents support expanding the #JaxHRO to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Support has remained steady for the last three years. In that time, UNF has consistently found that around 60% or more of respondents support an LGBT-inclusive #JaxHRO.

1. We saw bi-partisan co-sponsorship of an HRO bill for the first time

Bipartisan Ad

This year, for the first time ever, a bipartisan group of city council members teamed up to co-sponsor an LGBT-inclusive #JaxHRO.

In January, Democratic councilman Tommy Hazouri and Republican councilmen Aaron Bowman and Jim Love emerged as champions for equality by sponsoring a bill that would have updated our city’s nondiscrimination policies to protect the LGBT people.    

Unfortunately the council withdrew this bill in February. But they also withdrew another bill that would have put LGBT rights up for a popular vote on the August primary ballot—an unacceptable outcome that we proudly fought to avoid. The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality’s position has always been that our elected officials should decide the issue of updating the HRO.   We were pleased to see that bill withdrawn.

Our allies on the City Council have already confirmed that they’re pushing hard to introduce an LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance in January, and have committed to filing it, at the latest, sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

Our coalition—including our 10,000 grassroots supporters—will be there, fighting just as hard as we did a year ago.


Other highlights throughout the year:


  • The JCE hosted a another showing of “Six Words”, a documentary film about Jacksonville’s debate around updating its Human Rights Ordinance at the Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The JCE was a proud participant at the annual MLK Breakfast and in the MLK Day Parade
  • JCE and our partner, OneJAX, held a forum with the young professionals of OneJAX known as OneVoice
  • The JCE presented at Teaching Respect for All, a conference presented by our partner, JASMYN, that addresses LGBT youth issues in schools.


  • The UNF Senate passed a resolution in support of an updated HRO.
  • The JCE presented at “Pecha Kucha: HRO”
  • JCE supporters rallied after both HRO related bills were withdrawn by the city council


  • Researchers from the University of North Florida (UNF) revealed survey results that showed discrimination against the LGBT community in Jacksonville is prevalent.
  • JCE members participated in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Community Task Force
  • JCE participated in a discussion at the Florida Coastal School of Law


  • Equality Florida and the JCE moved to new, larger, office space at Brightway Center.
  • The OneJAX Humanitarian awards recognized several high-profile HRO supporters.
  • The JCE was named Best Equality Organization at City Xtra 2016 LGBT Award Show
  • The JCE shared information with nearly 1000 of JASMYN’s Strides for Pride 5K participants


  • The JCE hosted a training in Riverside on behalf of neighborhood activists
  • Dozens of JCE supporters were featured in the 100 Days for LGBcuTies art project.
  • An annual UNF poll continued to show strong support (64%) for an updated HRO.  
  • The “You’ve Been Sharing Bathrooms with Transgender People Your Whole Life–#JAXHRO” mural was created and promptly vandalized in 5-Points.  The media reported the incident.
  • Jacksonville Armada FC held its first LGBT Pride Night
  • JCE members participated in the formation of the development of an Employee Resource Group for the non-profit sector.
  • The JCE met with a representative from Visit Jacksonville to discuss the economic impact of failing to protect LGBT people from discrimination in Jacksonville


  • The JCE participated in the 2nd Annual LGBT Pride Celebration at Naval Air Station–JAX
  • The JCE hosted a forum with speakers from GLAAD, ONE JAX, and our Gender Identity and Expression Committee
  • The JCE, GLAAD and Faith in Public Life hosted a training for Faith Leaders who support an updated HRO.
  • TU Columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee called for an LGBT inclusive updated HRO
  • The JCE reached 500 business supporters
  • The JCE assisted to create a vigil for the Jacksonville LGBTA community that allowed us to reflect on the Pulse Nightclub Massacre.
  • The JCE fought an attempt to roll back protections for Transgender students in Duval County
  • The JCE hosted its first meeting at the Haskell building. The meeting featured a presentation from our local NOW chapter and three speakers who covered “Jacksonville LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections: Past, Present and Future”
  • The Museum of Science and History (MOSH) held its first LGBT Pride Day and JCE participated
  • JCE participated in separate LGBT pride events with Deutsche Bank and Bank of America.


  • The JCE Membership meeting covered “Transgender 101” featuring speakers from JASMYN and our JCE Gender Identity and Expression Committee
  • The JCE participated in a National Day of Action which included speaking with Jacksonville residents at their doorsteps about protecting transgender people from discrimination.
  • The Jacksonville Chamber gave permission to add their logo to our website.
  • JCE was all over JAXCOT, A food truck festival featuring cuisines from all around the world


  • Holland and Knight endorsed updating the HRO to include LGBT protections
  • JCE eclipses 6000 likes/followers on Facebook
  • JCE, in coordination with Freedom for All Americans, launches new website
  • The JCE membership meeting takes on Intersectionality hearing from representatives from We Are Straight Allies, New Florida Majority, League of Women Voters, ACLU, ICARE and the Urban League
  • JCE participates in LOVE FEAST, an event to raise funds for victims of the Pulse Night Club mass shooting


  • The Editor in Chief of Jacksonville Business Journal calls for an expanded HRO
  • The JCE trained membership on effective ways to impact HRO outcomes.  The training featured speakers from Equality Florida and OneVoice


  • The Partnership for Child Health Endorsed updating the HRO
  • Local musicians created JAMS for JAXHRO at the 1904 Music Hall to benefit the JCE
  • The JCE Membership meeting highlighted the needs of LGBT Elders with representatives from SAGE and Elder Source presenting
  • TD Bank Endorsed LGBT Protections
  • JASMYN’s National Coming Out Day Breakfast featured Darnell Smith, incoming JAX Chamber Chair, calling for an updated HRO, and Sarah McBride from the Human Rights Campaign educating on the need for Transgender protections
  • JCE had a visible presence at River City Pride Festival and Parade
  • The JCE collected it 10,000th postcard to be sent to the city council


  • Long Time Times Union Columnist Ron Littlepage opined it’s time to pass an updated HRO
  • One JAX hosted “Faith Matters”, a radio program, and dedicated a whole show to discussing the need to update our local HRO
  • JCE participated in the Transgender Day of Remembrance at UNF
  • Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office releases final Task Force report recommendations which include adding a liaison from the JSO to the LGBT community


  • The Duval Medical Society Endorses LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections
  • The Jacksonville Bar Association Endorses LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections
  • Day of Action has volunteers working the phones and walking neighborhoods
  • Over 1250 volunteer shifts worked over the course of 2016