Community divided over HRO proposal

Mayor's 2nd meeting on HRO sees extra security after bomb threat


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A huge crowd packed into Edward Waters College on Thursday for the mayor’s second meeting on the controversial Human Rights Ordinance, which would add a layer of hiring and housing protection for the LGBT community.

The meeting was conducted with a large Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office security presence because of a recent bomb threat. Guests were also asked to walk through a metal detector.

Police said the person who made that threat, Benjamin Manses, has been arrested.

Each of Mayor Lenny Curry's three meetings has a specific theme. Thursday's focused more on the religious freedom aspect of the Human Rights Ordinance.

The large crowd was as divided as one might expect, with hundreds who favored the HRO and hundreds who do not.

“I am in favor of equal rights, but I am not in favor of them imposing their rights upon us as citizens,” said Aaron McCulley, who opposes the HRO.

“My now wife and I have been partners for 34 years, and the dehumanizing aspect of having our civil rights up for vote,” said Carol Wright-Motes. “We’re the only population of people that have that happen to us.”

The meeting came hours after around 75 members of the clergy met downtown to speak out in favor of the HRO.

Pastor Jeff Burnsed, a conservative Christian minister who opposes passing the HRO, said that while 75 clergy members in Jacksonville may support it, a lot more do not.

“People have differences of opinion, but those that adhere to the Biblicist position, in other words you believe the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, probably would be in the camp that doesn’t support this,” Burnsed said. “I would be one of those people.”

Jimmy Midyette, who’s with the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, supports passing the HRO and protecting the LGBT community in any business.

“I’ve never encountered a Christian business,” Midyette said. “Either you’re a ministry of the church or you register and get your business license. So to me if a person goes down and gets a business license, they open their doors to the public. If they want to be a ministry, they get ordained and have a church. But you can’t be both at the same time.”

The final HRO meeting will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute. The focus of that meeting is understanding the law and its effects on businesses.

The mayor and other members of the City Council will then share their plans for where the HRO goes from here and whether it’s put up for a vote again either by the City Council or the public.

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