Jacksonville is again discussing proposed changes to city ordinance to include “non-discrimination” language (Sexual Orientation Gender Identity [SOGI] language). SOGI does not expand human rights, rather it creates legal weapons to punish Christians who are simply living out their faith in their businesses and use of private property.
Many of these SOGI laws also involve a gross invasion of privacy and create safety and security issues by allowing fully biological men to use women’s bathrooms. Don’t be fooled by smooth sounding names like “Human Rights Ordinances,” “Equal Rights Ordinances” and the latest deceptive name, the “Competitive Workforce Act.” Adding totally subjective terms like sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to legitimate non-discrimination statutes directly undermines our First Amendment rights of religious liberty, free speech and freedom of association.
Jacksonville’s new Mayor, Lenny Curry, has called for three community hearings or conversations on the idea of revisiting whether or not the city should enact a “Human Rights Ordinance” (HRO) like the one that was defeated soundly in 2012 by the City Council. The final community discussion was held this week.
Continue to visit this page for the latest updates.
Current Research on the harm of HROs:
The Heritage Foundation: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Laws Threaten Freedom by Ryan T. Anderson, PhD
All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination, but sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws are not the way to achieve that goal. SOGI laws are neither necessary nor cost-free. They threaten fundamental First Amendment rights. They create new, subjective protected classes that will expose citizens to unwarranted liability. Furthermore, SOGI laws would increase government interference in labor, housing, and commercial markets in ways that could harm the economy. Yet SOGI’s damage is not only economic: It would further weaken the marriage culture and the freedom of citizens and their associations to affirm their religious or moral convictions, such as that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human. SOGI laws would treat expressing these widely held beliefs in certain contexts as unlawful discrimination.
Alliance Defending Freedom: Protect Your Ministry from SOGI: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Lawsuits
The scope and nature of the threat posed by SOGIs and related laws warrants special, focused attention. This guide provides that focus. In the following pages, you will find examples of what other Christians around the country are facing; how your church, school, or ministry may be vulnerable to similar threats; and what you can do to secure crucial legal protections to help enable you to weather the fast-approaching legal storms.
Recent Jacksonville News on the Issue:
12.23.15: Councilan’s Pro HRO Op-Ed Generates Hate Mail, Positive Mail Pushback
The messaging war over expanding Jacksonville’s HRO, or human rights ordinance, is heating up as Christmas draws near, with District 3 City Councilman Aaron Bowman the latest to enter the fray…I can also tell you that we have lost businesses that were considering Jacksonville. And that we risk losing our current vital businesses due to our discriminatory ways. Just recently, the CEO of a large company here in Jacksonville that proposes to add hundreds of high-paying jobs told me that the project would go somewhere else if we do not pass the HRO. I haven’t heard an argument that would justify our behavior. And since I get so many emails from Jacksonville residents, I am going to ask for more.
12.21.15: First Baptist Church Weighs In On “Pansexuals,” Jax Hro Expansion: Referendum Would “Probably Not Pass”
“It is time to resolve the upcoming HRO expansion issue,” the letter began, stipulating that “if one’s religion precludes participating in an activity, or appearing to support that activity, that should be respected.”
12.19.15: HRO supporters and opponents see reason to hope Mayor Curry will fall on their side
Jacksonville is the next large city to tackle the issue after voters in Houston repealed a similar measure, giving the fight here higher visibility. Two City Council members filed opposing bills on the issue last week, but all eyes are on Curry, who just completed three wide-ranging town hall-like meetings on the ordinance and says he will take the holidays to decide how his administration will move forward.
“I’m not going to let political theater or antics or any movement pressure me into a timeline or the direction I’m going to go,” he said. “I began this process. I’m going to complete this process.”
12.19.15: Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford steps in on HRO while Mayor Curry mulls
Gulliford said he wants a decisive conclusion to the long-standing and divisive issue of expanding discrimination protections, but his unilateral action has frustrated council members who believe Curry, not the council, should have made the first move.
12.17.15: Atlantic Beach fields no complaints after adopting HRO
In August of 2014, the city [Atlantic Beach in Duval County] approved a measure after nearly a year of intense debate. Since then, records show, no one has filed a complaint alleging discrimination…”Doesn’t surprise me personally. Don’t think had an issue in the first place,” said Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves…
Mayor Lenny Curry is still weighing options following three community meetings. The final community forum was held this week, drawing a standing room only crowd.
12.17.15: Jax Coalition for Equality: “Dismayed” by HRO Referendum
“A referendum would be a serious departure from the City Council’s responsibility to address discrimination based on status. Of all the categories in our HRO, none has ever been placed on a ballot,” the JCE statement continued, adding that “a referendum eliminates the ability to address legitimate and specific concerns through the deliberative process of City Council committee meetings.”
12.16.15: Email Insights: Jax City Council’s BIll Gulliford Calls for HRO Referendum
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.”
12.16.15: Councilman wants voters to decide on HRO
Now that the town hall meetings on the proposed changes to Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinances are over, one councilman is calling for the choice to go to voters.
12.16.15: Open discussions on Jacksonville’s HRO ends
“You may not agree with the person sitting next to you, but we’re all here as citizens of Jacksonville,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
12.15.15: Jacksonville HRO Community Conversations Finally Over
Gannam noted that he’s “been up here a lot lately,” and then observed that “this law is not warranted” given that “LGBT persons recognize the fairness of Jacksonville” and live here in great numbers.
12.14.15: Supporters of LGBT ordinance roll out list of supportive businesses; opponent says that proves his point
Supporters of adding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination laws say they have collected written backing from more than 200 business people, including JAX Chamber Chairwoman-Elect Audrey Moran.
12.14.15: Don’t Discount Jax HRO Referendum Possibility
Though there is no Human Rights Ordinance expansion legislation yet, the possibility of such has been enough for many members of Jacksonville’s City Council, who have been hearing, pro and con, about the positions of people on this issue. This is especially true with the final Community Conversation on the subject looming at 6 p.m Tuesday at Jacksonville University’s Terry Concert Hall. With this in mind, and with the risk-aversion of most on Council in mind, an idea that has been getting traction is the idea of putting HRO expansion up to a popular vote. An HRO referendum.
12.14.15: Roger Gannam, Ken Adkins in Lenny Curry’s Final HRO “Community Conversation”
FloridaPolitics.com has obtained a list of panelists for the third Community Conversation on the Jax Human Rights Ordinance expansion. One of the names is familiar: Roger Gannam, of the Liberty Counsel, who has been a often lonely voice on the first two panels opposing HRO expansion.
12.10.15: African American Jax Pastors Call For HRO Expansion Referendum
A referendum sunk the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. And a group of 19 African-American Jacksonville pastors, at a Thursday afternoon news conference at the First Timothy Baptist Church on Jacksonville’s Northside, stated their opposition to an expanded Human Rights Ordinance, while saying that any ballot measure on such should be handled by popular referendum…“We cannot and will not support any ordinance driven by sexual orientation,” Newbill said, adding that the Civil Rights Act “covers what needs to be covered.” As well, Newbill added, “whatever comes out needs to be done by referendum.”
12.10.15: Jacksonville pastors call for referendum on HRO
Pastor Fred Newbill of First Timothy Baptist Church, flanked by 18 other pastors, offered a referendum as a solution to settle the ongoing debate in the city on whether or not to expand what is currently on the books.
“We have the federal law that applies to all of us, we have the state law that applies to all of us. Then we have local ordinances,” Newbill said in defense of why Jacksonville should not include sexual orientation.
12.10.15: Audrey Moran Issues Jax Hro “Call To Action”
The stakes are high, for activists on both sides, and will get higher as legislation goes from a theoretical construct to a reality…The battleground of this legislation is not going to be on the lesbian, gay, or bisexual protections; it will be on the transgender population. Those who are opposed will work to frame the action as a “bathroom bill,” and push toward referendum. Proponents, clearly, are going to have to counter those overt appeals to populism.
12.08.15: Guest column: LGBT people in Jacksonville do not need a Human Rights Ordinance
The proposed law would grant the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission enormous coercive power to investigate complaints against real, law-abiding citizens of Jacksonville, subpoena their documents, impose fines and attorneys’ fees, sue them in court and refer their cases to the state attorney for criminal prosecution.
12.07.15: Jacksonville Community Council: HRO Panelist Misrepresented 2009 Discrimination Study
At Thursday’s Jacksonville HRO community forum, Liberty Counsel lawyer Roger Gannam argued against adding LGBT protections to the city’s human rights ordinance, saying they’re just not needed.
“A law like this should be passed in response to a problem,” Gannam said. “Jacksonville does not have a widespread or systematic problem with discrimination against anyone.”
…With a news conference looming on Thursday afternoon, in which anti-expansion pastors expound upon their goals and strategy, it will be interesting to see when and how the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality and the national Human Rights Campaign countermessage the other side.
12.4.15: HRO discussions truck along in divided Jacksonville
Mayor Lenny Curry scheduled the Community Conversations and a bill is expected to be filed with the city council in early 2016. The third and final Community Conversation on the HRO is 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute. That discussion’s focus will be on the legal and business impacts of the proposed HRO.
12.4.15: Jacksonville faith leaders discuss how changing city’s human rights ordinance could affect religious freedom
One major question that could affect churches is whether or not a church would fall under the definition of a public accommodation.
12.4.15: Dr. Albert Mohler Podcast “The Briefing” on Jax HRO Issue
…Now the scene has shifted to Jacksonville and one of the lessons we need to understand in terms of the moral revolution is that those who are pushing it simply come back again and again and again. The strategy is to bring back the issue again and again, to wear down resistance and eventually to gain a political victory by one means or another. There’s also something we need to keep very much in mind here and we can only hope that the political leaders in Jacksonville, Florida have read some recent history, including the headlines.
12.4.15: What HRO Expansion Opponents Tell Jax Mayor Lenny Curry
…there are opponents to the bill, who have been emailing Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry with their thoughts.
12.3.15: Community meeting on LGBT law is more civil Thursday night
With tightened security measures in place, Mayor Lenny Curry convened a second town hall meeting Thursday about whether Jacksonville should add LGBT people to the city’s anti-discrimination law. The 90-minute meeting attracted about 700 people to an Edward Waters College gym for a discussion that focused on “Religious Freedoms, Thoughts and Beliefs.” The crowd heard a four-person panel engage in a back-and-forth debate over what impact expanding the anti-discrimination law would have on religious institutions. Opponents of changing the law said it would erode religious liberties. Supporters said the law would be written in a way to ensure that would not happen.
12.3.15: Human Rights Ordinance polarizing at public forum
Hundreds of people debated Thursday evening whether Jacksonville needs to amend its Human Rights Ordinance to protect members of the LGBT community.
12.3.15: Jacksonville Faith Leaders Come Out In Support Of LGBT Inclusive HRO
Seventy-seven Jacksonville faith leaders have signed a letter in support of an inclusive human rights ordinance.
12.3.15: Jax Coalition For Equality Announces 75 Faith Leaders’ Support For Fully-Inclusive HRO, Including Lenny Curry’s Pastor
Ahead of the Thursday evening Human Rights Ordinance Jacksonville “Community Conversation” on religious issues related to expanding the HRO to the LGBT community, the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality held an afternoon presser with some of the 75 faith leaders who support a fully-inclusive HRO. Among those faith leaders in support: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s own pastor, Bruce Jones of Southside United Methodist Church.
11.30.15: After a Defeat in Houston, the fight for gay rights shifts to Jacksonville
The first major gay rights showdown since Houston’s rancorous vote to repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance is shaping up here in Jacksonville, the largest city in the nation whose leaders have never enacted civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people…One major difference: In Houston, voters this month rolled back an existing ordinance; in Jacksonville, for now, the issue is before elected officials…Gay rights groups have poured tens of thousands of dollars into an aggressive effort to persuade the City Council to expand its existing Human Rights Ordinance, and to elect candidates who favor doing so.
Nov 2015: The Anti-LGBT Earthquake from Houston
…DC-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) spent a fortune maintaining its 34-activist army – salaries, housing, travel, expenses. That army is now relocating to Jacksonville and Charlotte to expand those stealth HRC operations which the press won’t report.
As in Jacksonville, some Houston businesses turned against the community, unjustly calling it bigoted, and collaborated in the national LGBT power grab. They were duped by HRC’s preposterous “LGBT laws are good for business” myth. And they fell for the “LGBT civil rights” hoax – in reality a ploy to make government outlaw opposition to LGBT lifestyles.