Pastors want public vote on HRO amendment

Group of pastors calls for proposed HRO changes to be put on ballot

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of local pastors is joining the debate over the city's proposed Human Rights Ordinance amendment.

The pastors are pushing the Jacksonville City Council to put the measure on the ballot and let the voting public decide whether to move forward.

If passed, the measure would provide a layer of protection for those in the LGBT community when it comes to jobs, housing and public accommodations.

"We cannot and will not support any ordinance that is driven by sexual orientation,” said Pastor Fred Newbill of First Timothy Baptist Church.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Newbill and about 20 other local pastors spoke out against expanding the Human Rights Ordinance.

The pastors say the laws from the Civil Rights Act currently in place are enough and that because it's a citywide issue, voters need to have a say.

Jacksonville Coalition for Equality leader Jimmy Midyette said in the past, city leaders have voted on such measures.

"There's a reason that civil rights measures and issues of human rights aren't voted on by the majority,” he said. “Often these are issues that impact the minority. It's not appropriate to have the majority vote on the rights of the minority."

Newbill rejected that, saying it should come down to the voters of Jacksonville.

"We don't believe that it needs to be written or passed by a few, even the City Council or signed by the mayor,” Newbill said.

Mayor Lenny Curry has been hosting a series of public meetings on the HRO proposal. Hundreds attended last week's meeting at Edward Waters College, where the audience was largely divided.

Newbill said he was there to learn more about why the measure should or shouldn't be passed. He wasn't convinced.

"I didn't hear not one example of anything that would cause me to want to rethink anything,” Newbill said.

But Newbill said if the measure were to pass, regardless of who voted for it, he would be ready to accept it.
If it did come down to a public vote, Midyette said he isn't worried about the outcome.

"The polling is really on our side. Eighty-six percent of voters in Jacksonville would approve of this,” Midyette said. "I think the more community conversation that happens on this, the better.”

The next mayoral community conversation will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 at JU's Terry Concert Hall.

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