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Jacksonville, Fla., Rejects Adding LGBT Protections to Anti-Discrimination Law

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday August 17, 2012

The largest city in Florida will not include protections of LGBT citizens from discrimination, including housing and jobs.

The (Jacksonville) Florida Times Union reported that the Jacksonville City Council voted against the bill by a 10-9 vote, with the decisive vote coming from Councilman Johnny Gaffney, a Democrat, although he had supported the bill when it went through a committee last week.

The ordinance was debated for three months. City officials argued that sexual orientation should be added to the city's list of protected groups and explained how the protections would be enforced. The law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, age and disability.

About 500 people attended the hearing and watched the committee vote on the issue via a digital video board. Those who were against the ordinance wore blue "Protect First Liberties" stickers and applauded the outcome, while supporters stood in shock.

"It was heart-wrenching," Jimmy Midyette, co-chairman of the Jacksonville Committee for Equality, said. "We'll figure out how we went wrong and what we can do better," he told fellow supporters outside City Hall. "I guarantee you this -- we are not done fighting for LGBT rights."

Senior pastor of Coral Ridge Baptist Ministries, Jeff Burnsed, was pleased with the results of the vote. "We're thankful to the Lord," Burnsed said. Both Burnsed and Midyette did not know how Gaffney would vote.

In May, City Council member Warren Jones offered a bill that added sexual orientation to Jacksonville's anti-discrimination ordinance but later amended it to remove gender identity and gender expression. The alteration upset members of Equality Florida, a group that lobbies for anti-discrimination laws.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of business leaders, endorsed the bill. The business groups' leaders maintained that Jacksonville could lose the ability to attracted talented workers.

But those against the bill say it would force people to go against their moral beliefs.

Florida does not recognize marriage equality or any kind of same-sex union. Jacksonville, which is near the border with Georgia, is considered more conservative than the better-known cities of Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.

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