Jacksonville Mayor Announces 'Community Conversations' On Expanding LGBT Protections

Nov 1, 2015

Credit Ted Eytan / Flickr

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will host a series of “community conversations” over the next several weeks on the topic of a more inclusive city human rights ordinance.

A few years back, the City Council narrowly defeated a bill that would have expanded anti-discrimination rules to protect gay and lesbian residents. During his mayoral campaign, Curry said he doesn’t “believe the people of Jacksonville discriminate,” but he pledged to help the city reach a “Jacksonville solution” if he learns discrimination does exist.

The first of three sessions will be held Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s downtown campus, located at 501 W. State St.

“In recent years, organizations across the country have been leading discussions and spirited debates about this topic,” Curry said in a written news release. “While there are widespread opinions and thoughts surrounding it, I am most concerned about Jacksonville citizens and commit to learning more to determine local solutions that address local needs.”

The release says the mayor “will engage stakeholders in a series of discussions to identify gaps, needs, and opportunities for Jacksonville citizens. Professionals leading or serving businesses, faith communities, and families will share information and experiences with attendees.”

The public is invited to attend any of the following sessions:

Supporting the Needs and Well-Being of Families, Nov. 17, 6 p.m.

FSCJ Downtown Campus at 501 W. State St., Jacksonville, FL  32202

Religious Freedoms, Thoughts & Beliefs, Dec.  3, 6 p.m.

Edward Waters College Milne Auditorium at 1658 Kings Road, Jacksonville, FL  32209

Understanding the Law & its Effects on Business, Dec. 15, 6 p.m.

Jacksonville University Policy Institute at 2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville, FL  32211

In response to the announcement, the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality released this written statement from its chairman, Dan Merkan: “We hope these conversations lead us to extend equal rights to all Jacksonville residents by adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the city’s existing human rights ordinances."

This summer, the city’s general counsel released a study of local non-discrimination laws, which had been commissioned by former Mayor Alvin Brown.

The study showed Jacksonville is the only large Florida city without protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations, despite being the Florida metro area with the highest percentage of LGBT residents.