A City Council committee approved a proposed anti-discrimination bill in Jacksonville at a meeting Monday by a 4-3 vote.
The bill will now go to the full council for a vote.
Committee members decided to limit discussion to five minutes each. Councilman Doyle Carte, who is not a member of the committee, walked out in protest, saying the time constraints were a "bunch of (expletive)."
Councilman John Crescimbeni spoke to Doyle as he left the meeting.
"With respect to my colleagues, the purpose of this motion was to move this thing forward, and the respect I am trying to show is to the people in the audience because we play this game every time," Crescimbeni said.
Councilman Warren Jones introduced the original legislation, but offered this watered-down amendment to make it more accepting to all members.
The initial proposal of Human Rights Ordinance 2012-269 was to add the words "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression" to the city's Equal Opportunity Ordinance, which already prohibits discrimination against religion, race, age, marital status and disability. But Jones' amendment was to drop "gender identity or expression."
"Most of all, it would allow us to treat all of the citizens fairly in employment housing and public accommodations," Jones said.
Councilman Don Redman, who is not a committee member, has been against the bill from the start. He said it's Christians that are being discriminated against and points to the recent protest at Chick-fil-A.
"You had a handful of people from the gay and lesbian community went out to their protest in front of the man's businesses, waiving their signs and screaming and hollering at people as they drive by," Redman said. "That was discrimination."
The committee's approval of the bill drew the ire of some on hand.
"I think it's a bad mistake, really bad mistake," said Jeff Burnsed, a local pastor, "because in the last two weeks, Chick-fil-A has been bashed and battered, and of course the Christian community, the people of faith, they have galvanized, and the backlash has been incredible. However, this is going to be perceived by a lot of people slapping Chick-fil-A right in the face, siding with the crowd who screamed and yelled homophobic and did a kiss-in."
Supporters say this is the first hurdle, but they still have the full council to convince.
"I think they understand that there is discrimination in the city, and they really see with some of the people we brought up here have been unemployed or fired because of a lack of this protection," one supporter said. "And I don't think they think it's right. I also think they understand that cities that are growing have thriving gay communities."