News release by the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality
General Counsel Study Shows Need for Updating Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance
(Jacksonville, FL) The Office of General Counsel's study on non-discrimination laws found that there is no negative impact on cities and counties with protections in place for the LGBT community throughout Florida and the nation. The study released today also shows Jacksonville is the most populous city in the United States that does not offer protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.
"The results of the study make clear that Jacksonville has fallen behind. We look forward to working with the new Mayor and the new City Council to make expanding the existing Human Rights Ordinance a priority once their work of passing a budget is completed," said Dan Merkan , Chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality (JCE). "Discrimination against the LGBT community is, unfortunately, a reality in Jacksonville and we look to our leaders to secure equal opportunity for all. We were heartened by Mr. Curry's comments showing a willingness to move this issue forward."
With Friday's landmark ruling by the Supreme Court affirming marriage equality for same-sex couples in all 50 states, the fact remains that, in Jacksonville, a couple could marry on Saturday and be fired from their jobs on Monday for no other reason than being LGBT. "Such unfair treatment for those who exercise their Constitutional rights has no place in Jacksonville," Merkan said.
Jacksonville is lagging behind major cities across Florida and across the nation at a time when the business community is making clear how important nondiscrimination provisions are. Even the military has updated policies to recognize and protect gay service- members who now have more rights on the base than they do when they shop downtown.
The 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) a national ranking of cities based on their nondiscrimination protections placed Jacksonville in the bottom 15% of cities with a score of 20 points out of a possible 100.
"Cities across the country are making incredible progress towards fairness and equality for LGBT people, but unfortunately it's clear that Jacksonville is lagging behind," said Marty Rouse, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Field Director. "As the largest city in the country without explicit non-discrimination protections for its LGBT residents and visitors, Jacksonville is becoming less and less competitive with its sister cities. It's time for Jacksonville to take this important step forward by passing a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance."
The JCE has worked tirelessly to educate and inform elected officials, decision-makers, and the general public about the negative consequences of discrimination faced by the LGBT community. The updates are well past due and Jacksonville now stands ready to catch up with other cities in our state and nation.
About the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality:
The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality grew out of the Jacksonville Committee for Equality, the group that led the 2012 effort to pass an amended human rights ordinance in Jacksonville that would have, if passed, added protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the workplace, housing, and public accommodation. The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality consists of many organizations including Jacksonville Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Human Rights Campaign, Equality Florida, We Are Straight Allies, PFLAG Jacksonville, JASMYN, OneJax and JAXX Black Pride as well as many other civic leaders, businesses and business owners, faith leaders and individuals. More information about the JCE is available at www.jaxequality.org.