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Jacksonville Councilmen To Withdraw LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bills


Councilmen Tommy Hazouri and Bill Gulliford said on Saturday they will ask Council President Greg Anderson to withdraw each member's bill to expand Jacksonville's current Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBT community.

HRO Bill 2016-2, sponsored by Hazouri, would put a protection for the LGBT community in the HRO if approved by the City Council.

HRO Bill 2016-1, sponsored by Gulliford, proposes putting the issue on the August ballot for a citywide vote. That bill is favored by opponents of the amendment.

Hazouri released a statement saying, "Many citizens of Jacksonville still have sincere questions and are not ready to move forward on this issue." Hazouri added, "This bill and this issue is coming back" when the time is right for the city. He told News4JAX that he didn't believe his bill would pass in its current state. He said he wanted to fix it before moving forward.

"I plan to take the next several months to continue working with the Office of the General Counsel, further addressing the bill’s effect on small businesses, religious organizations and public accommodations.  It is also critical that we make certain that the public understands that this is not a ‘bathroom bill,’” Hazouri's statement said.

Many opponents of expanding Jacksonville’s human right’s ordinance have fixated on public restrooms as a point of contention. For example, Liberty Counsel lawyer Roger Gannam says making it illegal for business owners to challenge transgender women from entering bathrooms could inadvertently make it easier for male sex predators to dress as women and enter restrooms to attack women.

Councilman Gulliford told News4JAX on Saturday that he will also ask Council President Anderson to withdraw HRO Bill 2016-1. "He (Hazouri) has a legitimate argument when it comes to timing. It may run deeper than that, but I think it's the appropriate move. I made a commitment publicly that if Hazouri would withdraw his bill, I would withdraw mine."

The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality responded Saturday night, saying, "This is a setback, to be sure, but by no means a defeat. Councilman Hazouri has been a steadfast champion for equality, and we know that he remains committed to passing a fully inclusive amendment to our human rights ordinance."

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP