Jax pastor R.L. Gundy on HRO switch: “we cannot discriminate”


Back in 2012, he was one of a chorus of evangelical pastors in North Florida speaking out against updating Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance to cover LGBT citizens from discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations.

But now, the Reverend R.L. Gundy has changed his mind.

“There’s no conflict between your Biblical stance and the issue. Which is, we cannot discriminate against people,” Gundy says.

The pastor at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church is a well-known faith leader in the city’s influential African-American religious community. Urban legend persists that this group had prevailed upon former mayor Alvin Brown to kill the HRO in the crib in 2012 before it could be codified into law (always officially denied.)

What is agreed upon by all quarters today, is that in Jacksonville, the faith community’s buy-in is essential for getting an HRO passed.

Hence, the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality has touted Gundy’s recent endorsement, along with several dozen other local faith leaders.

“I used to criticize people who were gay,” he told WJCT.

“But then, I had a young man in my church who died from AIDS. When I went to the hospital to talk with him, I said ‘Why didn’t you come talk to me?’ And he said, ‘Pastor, I didn’t feel like I could talk to you. I didn’t feel like the church would accept me.’ That’s a moment that haunts me today. And I said when he was laying before us in the church, maybe this young man might be alive if he felt that he could come talk to us in the church.”

“From that point on, I started doing more and more research. I started engaging myself into what this LGBT was really all about.”

Gundy brushed aside criticism that he is switching his stance on the HRO because he’s accepted consulting fees from the Human Rights Campaign, who has been working with local operatives on the issue. Equality Florida has also lobbied local politicians.

“I get the perception. But that had nothing to do with my decision. It had to do with educating myself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the next mayoral town hall or “community conversation” on the city’s HRO is set for December 3rd and focuses on “religious freedoms, thoughts and beliefs.”


Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected]


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