Jacksonville City Council approves updated HRO

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday to approve a new bill aimed at clearing up issues with the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.

The bill passed 15-4.

Last month, a court of appeals struck down Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination ordinance, saying it couldn’t be enforced in its current state.

The Council’s goal was to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation but the court of appeals ruled there was an issue with the ordinance’s text.

The panel said that instead of laying out specific changes to the city’s anti-discrimination laws, the proposed ordinance said the city’s office of general counsel would write the amend ordinance later.

But when those appealing the HRO filed their complaints, that hadn’t happened yet, the panel said.

“The only way to ensure clear, accurate, understandable, and uniform notice of proposed changes to a law or an ordinance is to put them in writing before enacting or adopting them—in full text, in context, complete as if for immediate enforcement. Without all of that, an amendment is just an idea. Ideas alone are not enforceable, which is why an amendment that fails to comply with these requirements is void,” the panel wrote.

The legal director for the Coalition for Equality, Jimmy Midyette, who has worked behind the scenes on the issue since it first came up in 2012, said the new version of the HRO ordinance addresses the panel’s concerns.

“The LGBT community thought this was a battle that we had won three years ago,” Midyette said. “So when the ruling came down, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty.”

Last time around, Mayor Lenny Curry allowed the HRO expansion to become law without his signature. This time, he indicated he would sign it. He made good on that pledge two days later.

Midyette said the ordinance has led to good results for LGBT citizens.

“During those three years, real people here in Jacksonville have gone to the Human Rights Commission, have had their case resolved, and benefitted from this law,” Midyette said. “It’s not just a feel-good measure. It does actual good.”

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