Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri is pitching his human rights ordinance bill in one-on-one meetings with other council members. His first one, with Councilman Aaron Bowman, was Wednesday afternoon.
"He had some great questions to ask about the language, that we have to make sure that it’s in plain English and people understand what it does instead of having a whole list, a parade of horribles out there, people saying the sky is falling," Hazouri said after the meeting. "And it’s not falling.”
If his bill passes, it would update the city’s HRO to include protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. That means gay or transgender people would not legally be denied housing, jobs or service in public places because of who they are.
At Wednesday's meeting, Bowman asked to be added as a co-sponsor of the bill.
“I believe the United States, what makes it better than any other country in the world, is our basic rights, and I think you have the basic rights to be who you want to be and be happy, and right now not everybody can say that in Jacksonville,” he said.
Bowman says this bill is important to him because he’s pro-business, and he also wants to make sure small businesses would be protected.
“I’ve got a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls, and those have been some of the main complaints is, ‘Look, I’m a small business. Why are you trying to do this to me?’ Or, ‘I’m a religious organization, it’s against my religion.’ So I think it’s important we respect those people," Bowman said.
Hazouri's HRO bill would exclude businesses with fewer than 15 employees from adhering to the employment portion of the ordinance, and religious institutions would be exempt as well.
A competing bill going through Council would put the HRO question to voters in the form of a referendum instead of a Council vote.