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Commissioners meet to discuss Human Rights Ordinance

Ordinance remains in effect after vote to reconsider fails

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Just last month Atlantic Beach became the first city in Northeast Florida to pass a Human Rights Ordinance to protect people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Monday night, that ordinance remained in effect after an effort to put the ordinance before voters failed.

Commissioners were the only ones who originally voted on the ordinance, and some community members said Atlantic Beach voters should be the ones making the decision.

Commissioners met Monday night and discussed the issue in a heated meeting.

Many community members said their rights are being violated by the ordinance commissioners passed last month that specifically bans discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

But at Monday's meeting, a motion to reconsider the ordinance failed.
Commissioners voted 3-2 with three of the commissioners who voted for the HRO originally voting against reconsideration.

Now, the law that was passed on Aug. 11 will remain on the books.

Atlantic Beach is the first community in Northeast Florida to pass an inclusive Human Rights Ordinance that also includes sexual orientation and gender identity expression.

At least 200 communities across the country have already done it, and many of those attending Monday's meeting said they're happy Atlantic Beach will remain a safe and inclusive area.

"People in our community need to know that they are safe, that they are welcome and they won't be treated differently when they look for a job or when they seek out housing or when they visit a restaurant," said Dan Merkan of Jacksonville Coalition for Equality. "These are just common basic rights that really everyone should have."

Several people who were against the ordinance at Monday's meeting said it infringes on their religious freedom and their property rights. They also believe it will stop businesses from moving to the area.