Gay rights fight roils Jacksonville … again

Many opponents worry about bathroom safety.

A gay rights bill passed three years ago is back in Jacksonville, and on Tuesday evening the City Council got an earful about it from the public.

Ahead of a vote in two weeks, the sole public hearing was held on cure legislation for an expansion of gay rights questioned on procedural grounds by a state appeals court.

Jacksonville’s General Counsel, Jason Gabriel, questioned the highly-technical ruling against the integrity of the law, and suggested that cure legislation, of the sort that was filed, would be one potential remedy.

However, there were worries in many quarters that reconsideration of the law would stoke old controversies.

The Human Rights Ordinance expansion of 2017 protected jobs, housing, and restroom access for the LGBT community, and it had seemed a settled issue until the appeals court ruling.

But that hard won victory came only after years of vitriolic debate before the bill passed in 2017.

In 2020, little had happened to change that consensus. And nothing changed it Tuesday night.

For groups like the Jacksonville Civic Council and the Chamber of Commerce, the reconsideration bill is a slam dunk. Activists and opponents agree that it has the votes on Council.

But outside the corridors of power, the debate was more open, and on Tuesday opponents pleaded against the bill on public safety grounds, dialing down the tone of previous years, even as rhetoric remained heightened in what likely is a last stand against LGBT rights legislation in Jacksonville.

Elicia Dipietro said the legislation facilitates “violence against women,” with rapid-fire anecdotes of sexual predators abusing the legislation to nefarious ends.

Lois Tague said she was in a bathroom with her granddaughter, when a deep voice boomed, “are there any sweet little girls in here?” She feared her granddaughter was in mortal danger.

Wade Mask, Sr. said “we’re just opening this up for people to be able to use that [legislation] to hurt little children.”

Other opponents took a more structural tack.

Raymond Johnson pointed out the “well-funded” lobbying groups, like Equality Florida and the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, that seemingly stacked the call. The “everyday citizens who oppose this bill” could not figure out how to do a Zoom call, Johnson added.

It wasn’t all opposition. Democratic candidates for office, including state House hopeful Joshua Hicks, former candidate Tracye Polson, and Duval County Clerk of Courts candidate Jimmy Midyette, had their say in support.

As did many other members of the community, whose concerns ran from the existential to the metaphysical.

“We have a long way to go,” said Avery Garner of Murray Hill, about the threat of violence that still looms over the LGBT community

“Jesus was probably gay himself,” a man named Jim mused.

In the end, the public testimony won’t decide the vote of the Council.

But as if nostalgic for the debates of bygone years, scores of Jacksonville residents spent hours on a Zoom call to argue points most had said and heard years before, in what is yet another eclipse of the city’s once-formidable religious right.


A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Astute Observer

    May 26, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    The comments tonight in support of the anti-Christian HRO were appalling and blasphemous. Shame on the Jacksonville City Council for refusing to delay a vote on the HRO until after the coronavirus emergency has subsided and citizens can attend city council meetings in person once again. Equality Florida is a dangerous, fanatical anti-Christian group. And, even scarier, is the fact that Councilman Rory Diamond – the only openly “gay” councilman – has been previously endorsed by Equality Florida. Jacksonville Christians are under attack!

    • Against LGBT

      May 27, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      These people are very wicked to allow the LGBT community in our restroom violating our rights of children and women because of there twisted satanic sexual desire, God will punish these people worse than sodom and gomorrah

    • Sam

      May 28, 2020 at 12:49 am

      It’s insane and unbecoming that any major city would have to pass an ordinance protecting citizens from discrimination when we are 2 decades into the 21st century (let alone for the second time). The Jacksonville city council needs to get this done correctly this time and put this obscenely vocal and fanatical minority of Christian fundamentalists to rest. Why do they obsess so much over our gay citizens? Because of the love of Jesus? They literally recycle arguments used against blacks from the civil rights era. There is simply no threat to “religious freedom” posed by a HRO unless that “freedom” is to discriminate. Period. There is no threat posed by protecting fellow citizens. There hasn’t been for 3 years.. This is absurd and needs to be rectified. It is long overdue that everyone in Jax is protected under law.

  • Frankie M.

    May 26, 2020 at 11:54 pm

    Yawn…keep it moving. Nothing to see here. Like my barber says, NEXT.

  • John Kociuba

    May 27, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    Homosexuals used to be on the BIID list for mental illness until homosexuals got on the american psychiatric association board.

    Homosexuals act like victims but in reality many are satanic minions that prey on children (Drag Queen Story Time).

    Homosexuals rape 3x number of children than hetrosexuals per population capital and suffer from antemophilia which leads Homosexuals to a 70% suicide rate.

    These are sick people that need medical help! They should never be able to adopt children.

    Stop assisting their perversions.

  • Hayden Sutherland

    May 28, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    The vile comments here are a clear example of why LGBT people need to be protected.

Comments are closed.


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