Email insights: Jax City Council’s Bill Gulliford calls for HRO referendum

lgbt-inclusion workforce

Following on the heels of Tuesday’s third, packed and final “community conversation” on expanding Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance to cover LGBT residents from discrimination, Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford has emailed media outlets saying he’s filed the same ordinance that was voted on in 2012 “with one addition — a provision for a referendum by the voters on the issue.”

“As a courtesy, I waited until after Mayor Curry’s final community conversation event on this topic before acting,” Gulliford says.

“Currently, based on recent comments and materials distributed by both proponents and opponents, it appears that we have irreconcilable differences between both sides of this issue which now appear to be more intractable than before. During the time I have spent on the City Council, I have never seen an issue that brings out more passion and responses than this one. In 2012, we were overwhelmed with emails, letters, calls and constituent visits. This time, they are starting out with even a stronger response from both sides, even without any legislation being considered as of yet.

“It begs the fundamental question — is it right that as few as ten people could decide the outcome of this very contentious issue without knowing the sentiment of the majority of citizens? In short, with the depth of participation already demonstrated, should citizens have a say on this beyond just public forums? Or, do we vote on it as council members somewhat influenced by our conscience, personal bias or intense lobbying?

“We have held much less significant referendums and I think the outcome of the recent election in Atlantic Beach where the voters loudly stated that they wished to vote on the Atlantic Beach HRO speaks volumes to the desire of many people in that community to have a say. I already have received numerous emails requesting a referendum from citizens of Jacksonville.”

Meanwhile, pro-HRO advocates in Jacksonville have argued, loudly, that the rights of a minority should never be decided by popular vote, noting that civil rights for African-Americans, for example, would never have been approved via referendum. They also point to the recent fate of Houston’s human rights ordinance, known as HERO, that went down to defeat when put to a popular vote.

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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