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Email insights: Equality Florida fears gay-rights setback in Jacksonville

LGBT rights in Jacksonville hang in the balance.

An LGBT-rights law passed in Jacksonville in 2017 suffered a legal setback this month, and Equality Florida is concerned.

The lobbying group says that “a lawsuit by far-right extremists threatens to wipe out Jacksonville’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.”

“The Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) has been working as intended for 3 years, and Jacksonville is a more open and welcoming place because of it,” goes the claim.

“On Friday, courts sided with opponents of equality and found a technical procedural issue that, without action from the City Council, jeopardizes the HRO. Now, the Jacksonville City Council must quickly re-enact the HRO to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination,” the missive adds.

Equality Florida contends that “no Jacksonville ordinance in recent memory has been vetted more thoroughly than the Human Rights Ordinance” which “won a landslide 12-6 vote from the Jacksonville City Council.”

Worth noting, the City Council tends to move in terms of 19-0, 18-1, or 17-2 votes, and the 12-6 “landslide” was no sure thing.

Also worth noting, Mayor Lenny Curry did not sign the bill into law. He opposed the legislation, but contended it had passed by a veto proof majority, so it became law without his signature. Neither he nor his administration have given any indication of active support for the law since.

That said, the city intends to defend the law, a position expressed by General Counsel Jason Gabriel days before the Equality Florida email circulated.

Gabriel decried the appeals court ruling as “mind-boggling” and “bizarre” and said the city was reviewing all options, including cure legislation or an appeal.

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal sided with the plaintiffs, who contended that amendments approved in 2017 were “null and void” because their adoption violated state law.

The city approved a swath of code changes as part of what was popularly called “passing the HRO,” but plaintiffs led by the social conservative Liberty Counsel contended those changes were not laid out and that the Office of General Counsel would “write the ordinance later.”

The county court did not entertain this argument, contending the plaintiffs lacked standing and could not challenge the law until they could demonstrate being adversely impacted by it.

The appeals court saw it differently, saying the city violated “governing principles of notice and due process.”

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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