The Jacksonville community will have several opportunities to tell the full City Council their feelings about possibly expanding the city’s human-rights ordinance to include gay and transgender people.
Two bills going through Council could add protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in the areas of housing, public accommodations and employment, one of them directly and the other by public referendum.
One bill, introduced by Tommy Hazouri would add those LGBT protections to the city’s existing human rights ordinance outright. The other, introduced by Bill Gulliford would call for the entire city to vote.
Council President Greg Anderson is planning a special feedback process that’s different from how the Council usually hears bills.
Normally bills go through a series of smaller committees. Anderson says this time he’s using a method called committee-of-the-whole, so all Council members will hear the same information together at each meeting. It’s not what the Council did when considering similar legislation in 2012.
“I contrast that with what happened last time, where we had a committee process where different committee members heard different pieces of the story, so to speak,” he says. “So this will provide an opportunity for consistency and for transparency.“
The committee-of-the-whole meetings start next month and there are three, each one allowing an hour for public comment. Normally people are allowed to speak for three minutes at Council meetings, but Anderson says that time will likely be cut in half to allow more people to speak.
He says people who aren’t able to speak at one meeting will go to the top of the pile for the following meeting.
The first meeting on Feb. 4 will serve as an intro to the bills. Councilman Bill Gulliford and Councilman Tommy Hazouri will explain their bills. The second meeting on Feb. 18 will include presentations about the bills, and the third on March 3 will allow Council members to state where they stand before a final vote on the bills later that night.
The public will also be able to comment at regular Council meetings. The bills follow a series of HRO community meetings hosted by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.