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Straight Allies Advocate For LGBT Equality In Jax

A local ad campaign is encouraging the expansion of Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance and is getting support from local, regional and national groups.

"It's an engagement campaign," said Chevara Orrin, of the "We Are Straight Allies" campaign. "We're employing those people who simply believe in social justice and human rights for all."

Orrin co-founded the group with Laura Riggs and Dan Bagan.

In 2012, the Jacksonville City Council overwhelmingly declined expanding protection in the city's HRO to include the LGBT community by a vote of 17-2. A substitute bill was subsequently shot down by one vote.

Orrin said Jacksonville is the only remaining large city in Florida that has not moved forward in the Human Rights Ordinance.

Now, the Straight Allies campaign is enlisting the participation of well-known straight people to advance the issue.

Orrin said author and women's liberation activist, Gloria Steinem, recently agreed to be featured in the ad campaign. On Wednesday, Steinem was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Obama.

Alongside Steinem were Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Ernie Banks.

Orrin said every major cultural movement, from women's suffrage to civil rights, has employed people from the larger, often oppressive group.

She said, with straight allies helping to advocate equality for the LGBT community, the message will be heard differently by the opposition.

"I understand people have particular religious and spiritual beliefs," Orrin said. "I would encourage them to spend time talking with people in the LGBT community to find out what their experiences are."

Orrin said embracing equality will move the city forward, both socially and economically.

She urges people to go to the Straight Allies website, where visitors can click on the face of their favorite (or not-so-favorite) city council person and send them an e-mail.

Visitors to the website can also sign an equality pledge. The information goes straight to Equality Florida to help garner support in the broader community and move the issue forward.

The group is also utilizing their personal website, Facebook page, Twitter and other forms of social media. They also have a print campaign that includes advertisements in Folio Weekly and Arbus Magazine scheduled as part of the campaign.

Equality Florida, another regional LGBT organization, spoke with Straight Allies about a statewide billboard campaign.

The Atlantic Beach City Commission will hold a meeting November 25 where the issue of equality will once again be put forth.