February 14, 2018 -- The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality (JCE), Equality Florida, and Freedom for All Americans are celebrating the one-year anniversary of Jacksonville’s updated Human Rights Ordinance, which provided nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. In a bipartisan 12 – 6 vote, the Republican-controlled City Council expanded its existing human rights policy to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public spaces such as restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues.
This victory was years in the making, made possible by the efforts of over 10,000 Jacksonville residents who voiced their support for this update. The LGBTQ community, alongside a coalition of over 700 small businesses and 200 faith leaders, demonstrated the urgent need for these protections and ultimately succeeded on February 14th, 2017.
“Our city is stronger than ever, now that all of us can rest assured that we are free to live our lives without fear of discrimination,” said Dan Merkan, Chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality. “The fact is, LGBTQ non-discrimination protections have been on the books for an entire year—and contrary to our opponents fear-mongering predictions, the sky hasn’t fallen in Jacksonville. Support for LGBTQ equality remains strong and the false claims of our opponents have been exposed fully for the lies we knew they were. One year later, LGBTQ people are protected, families are more secure, and Jacksonville has affirmed to the world that our world-class city is truly open for business to all.”
“The Florida legislature could learn a great deal from the example leaders in Jacksonville set by bringing a community together to secure these vital protections,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “As of a year ago, 60% of Floridians are now protected by local ordinances, but far too many in our state are still vulnerable to discrimination. While a bill that would make these basic protections the law statewide has strong bipartisan support, legislative leaders in Tallahassee refuse to allow the measure to move or be voted on. Even as we celebrate this one year milestone, we must confront a painful reminder that our work is far from over. Celine Walker was murdered last week in Jacksonville, becoming the 4th transgender person killed in the US this year at a time when hate violence is escalating exponentially. We won’t rest until lived equality is a reality for all Floridians - no matter where they live, who they are, or who they love.”
“Last year’s victory in Jacksonville was a perfect illustration of what we know to be true: as folks get to know their LGBTQ neighbors, they come to understand that LGBTQ people and our families deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “LGBTQ equality is not a partisan issue but rather an issue of economic competitiveness. The Jacksonville City Council’s Republican leadership led the way towards a more inclusive city, and brought us one step closer to securing full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide.”
The Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance modernized the existing city ordinance which previously banned discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations (such as restaurants and stores) based solely on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or familial status.