30 October 2013
A 30-minute television documentary -- produced by an Emmy Award winning production team -- explores the debate to add six words to the City of Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance: "Sexual orientation, gender identity or expression." The documentary, to be produced for multiple airings on national, international, and Jacksonville / North Florida prime-time TV and available free on-line, is the first in-depth investigation of a controversy that some consider a community game-changer. "If we continue to be the largest city in Florida without these basic civil rights protections, Jacksonville will look even more like a relic," says Jimmy Midyette, co-chair of Jacksonville Committee for Equality. Along with the documentary's TV and on-line presence, 1,000 DVD's of the program -- also free and distributed throughout the community -- will be available for showings at local schools, churches, civic groups, theaters, political engagement events and to city council members, government officials, boards and agencies, and other local "movers and shakers." Without the six words in the ordinance, a Jacksonville employer can fire a gay employee. A Jacksonville landlord can evict a gay tenant. A Jacksonville shopkeeper can refuse to serve a gay customer. No reason is required. No legal recourse is feasible. "Just someone who decides 'They look like they're gay,' and says, 'We don't want you here,'" says Celeste Krueger, Executive Director of OneJax. Over 150 Florida cities -- including Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Tallahassee and Gainesville -- already added protections for gays in their HRO's. "But that type of discrimination right now is without protection within the City of Jacksonville," says Parvez Ahmed, a member of the Human Rights Commission. In August 2012, Jacksonville's City Council, heavily lobbied by fundamentalist ministers and churches, voted down the LGBTQ amendment after three months of dramatic debate -- and after receiving 10,000 e-mails from constituents for and against the issue. The resulting notoriety surrounding the Council's vote went nationwide and still reverberates nearly a year later. "We don't look good," says Dr. Henry Thomas, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Florida. "If we put out a sign that says 'Talented Gays Not Welcome,' we're not going to get very far." Without the LGBTQ amendment in the ordinance, some believe Jacksonville could lose millions in new business. "My grandkids won't believe we fought over this issue," says Bill Bond, longtime civic leader and former Vice Chairman of Jacksonville's First Union Bank. Supporters of the amendment are now deciding when -- or even if -- to re-introduce the bill.
- Written by