FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Fernandina Beach made history last month with its first pride parade. The city reached another milestone Tuesday evening, voting unanimously for the adoption of a human rights ordinance.
Fernandina joins Jacksonville and Atlantic Beach, among dozens of other cities and counties throughout the state that have passed similar legislation.
"It's important as a city that we are open, our city, to everybody and to all communities," said Vice Mayor Len Kreger.
The legislation makes it illegal to deny people housing and employment based on race, religion, gender identity, nationality, military service, disability, sexual orientation, and marital status.
“This has really changed people’s hearts and minds," said Fernandina Beach resident Holly Hamilton. "I think everybody just wants to be treated fairly. No one’s asking for anything extra.”
DOCUMENT: View the bill
Tuesday’s city commission meeting comes three weeks after hundreds of people flocked to the quaint city for its inaugural Fernandina Beach Pride Parade and Festival, a celebration of love and freedom.
Genece Minshew, president of Fernandina Beach Pride, said the support for and response to the event went well above and beyond the organization’s expectations.
"The support and coordination and effort we had from people was really just overwhelming," she said. "People were lining up to help—more help than we knew what to do with sometimes."
While the parade came together quickly and easily, Minshew said, advocates had been working for more than a year to help craft the ordinance and rally support from city and community leaders.
"The ordinance has been more low-key," she said. "Working with getting different community members involved and getting the commissioners comfortable with the idea of what the ordinance is."
Flags are symbolic and parades and festivals are empowering, Minshew noted, but the ordinance is different—it’s a law with protections against discrimination. In other words, it has teeth.
Like code enforcement, discrimination cases would be handled through a magistrate process. Victims would be given a voice and an opportunity to be heard, instead of being brushed aside.
"It’s not just eyewash," she said. "People will be protected and people will be safer."