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Updated Jax Human Rights Ordinance Will Be Voted On By Full Council Next Week

hand grabbing an lgbtq+ flag, there are others in the background doing the same.
Nelson Antoine
/
Associated Press
The updated HRO was originally passed in 2017, but was recently declared unenforceable because of technical issues.

Jacksonville’s refined Human Rights Ordinance made it through two more City Council committees Tuesday, meaning it will be voted on by the full council in a week.

The updated HRO - which protects against discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity - made it through the Finance Committee unanimously, while passing through the Rules Committee with a 6-1 vote. 

On Monday, the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee voted in favor of the HRO by a vote of 5-2.

In all three committees, only councilmen Samuel Newby and Randy White voted against it. 

The bill was originally passed in 2017, but was recently declared unenforceable by a Florida District Court of Appeals because of technical issues in the legislation’s language. 

Councilman Aaron Bowman added a substitution to the bill to clearly define religious institutions, which are exempt from the update. Some small businesses are also exempt. The substitution also states that employers can still create single-sex restrooms and other private facilities, and that an employer can still have a dress code, as long as the dress code is not based on gender stereotypes.

“This HRO is just common sense to me on treating people with dignity and respect,” Bowman said.

Opponents of the bill during the public comment period said that it could create an avenue for male sexual offenders to enter women’s restrooms.  

“All I ask is that you read the bill,” said Councilman Tommy Hazouri. “Oftentimes, I know that these are just continual parades of horribles that don't match what the bill says. And I just urge everyone - I respect their right to be opposed to it, but also respect our right to be supportive of it - read the bill. And you'll see that it shows that Jacksonville is not just an open city, but making a statement on what we want for ourselves and for our family.” 

On Monday, Councilman Al Ferraro said he’s concerned about the HRO restricting churches. 

“I want to make sure that my priests and my church are not affected in the beliefs that we've had for millennia,” Ferraro said. “And this is where I have a problem. It’s when we're forcing people of religious beliefs to do something that they feel is against their beliefs and God.”

But on Tuesday, Councilman Matt Carlucci argued against that notion again. 

“I don't know of anybody on our council that does not have - although they might be different in some form or fashion - religious beliefs and values that they hold dear near and dear to their heart, including me. This bill exempts religious institutions,” Carlucci said. 

The 2017 HRO passed without Mayor Lenny Curry’s signature. However, Curry has already stated that if it reaches his desk, he will sign it. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.