Celebrating the One-Year Anniversary of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance

By Shane Stahl • February 14, 2018 • 12:35 pm

One year ago today, February 14, the City Council in Jacksonville, Florida passed the #JaxHRO, which updated the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Jacksonville is the twelfth largest city in the United States, and was one of the few top cities where LGBT people were not explicitly protected from discrimination.

Freedom For All Americans was proud to partner with the Jacksonville Coalition For Equality, who had been working for years to help pass the ordinance.

To acknowledge the important anniversary, Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said today:

“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. 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.”

Dan Merkan, Chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, added:

“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. 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.”

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, made the case for statewide protections, pointing to the Jacksonville as a clear signal of momentum:

“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. 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.”

Eighteen states and 200 cities have passed comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Now Florida Competes, a coalition of businesses large and small, is working with our partners at Equality Florida and a bipartisan group of supportive legislators to pass a bill known as the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would update the state’s 1992 Civil Rights Law to include protections for LGBTQ people. Learn more about their efforts here.

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