Post submitted by Evin Willman, a volunteer leader with the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality.
The city of Atlantic Beach has become the first Northeast Florida community to enact a Human Rights Ordinance protecting residents and visitors from anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Last night’s 4-0 city commission vote came after months of consideration and several public hearings.
After two hours of public comments, the audience cheered with relief following the vote, which culminated a process that began last November when the notion of amending the city’s HRO was first introduced. The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality (JCE), a grassroots group made up of representatives of local Jacksonville-area organizations, advocates and other concerned citizens, led the charge during the process. With support from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida, members of the LGBT community and straight allies worked diligently to educate the commissioners and the public about the benefits of the legislation for Atlantic Beach.
After falling just short of amending Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity in 2012, the JCE was established and has been working building a base of support in Jacksonville and make advances in other Duval County communities. In June, the City of Neptune Beach added protections for municipal workers, and last night’s victory in Atlantic Beach sets another benchmark for Duval County and Northeast Florida.
With upcoming Jacksonville City Council elections in the spring of 2015, the JCE is now focusing its efforts to help elect councilmembers likely to support an amended HRO later next year. You can be sure that HRC will be with them every step of the way to help make that happen.
Cities and counties across the country have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. To find out more about what cities are doing to support their LGBT residents and visitors, check out HRC's Municipal Equality Index.