Why Jacksonville needs an anti-discrimination law

This piece was published on jacksonville.com, the Florida Times-Union website. Ron Littlepage argues that Jacksonville needs to expand it's anti-discrimination laws quickly. Check it out.


by Ron Littlepage

An ordinance will be introduced soon in City Council that should be passed quickly and signed gladly by Mayor Alvin Brown.


The ordinance will strengthen the city's laws banning discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin or disability.

Added to the laws for the first time would be discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity.

Every other major city in Florida and most major cities in the U.S. have similar laws. It's time Jacksonville joined them.

One argument in favor is simply this: It will be good for business as we try to attract jobs and talent to our city.

Listen to Steve Halverson, the president and chief executive officer of Haskell, who knows a thing or two about business.

He and a group of advocates for the legislation met with the Times-Union editorial board earlier this week.

"It's time for Jacksonville to modernize its laws," Halverson said.

Jacksonville can't be competitive, he said, if the city ignores 5 to 10 percent of the workforce.

"To me, it's more personal than that," Halverson said. "It gets to a question of fairness.

"As a CEO you have a basic duty to protect your people, to protect them from any unfair discrimination of any kind.

"If you don't do that, you are not a very good CEO and not a very good person."

Former Mayor John Delaney told the editorial board that as president of the University of North Florida, he has sometimes been unable to attract professors to the school because it's not illegal to discriminate against gays in Jacksonville.

"You can fire somebody for just being gay," he said. "You can kick someone out of a restaurant for being gay. You cannot rent because you are gay. ...

"It's about talent, and it's about fairness."

In 2009, two studies done by UNF and Jacksonville Community Council Inc. at the request of the city's Human Rights Commission found that discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people was rampant here.

According to a Times-Union story about the studies, 40 percent of the 235 GLBT people surveyed by JCCI had experienced recent problems, including job losses, housing harassment, school suspensions and violence.

Even in conservative Jacksonville, the UNF study found that more than 90 percent of the people surveyed believed that sexual minorities should receive equal treatment in the workplace.

This ordinance would not apply to religious institutions, and it has nothing to do with gay marriage.

"It's a matter of conscience," Councilman Warren Jones, who will introduce the legislation, told the Times-Union.

There's no plausible reason for the council not to make this needed change and for Brown not to approve it.

"It's about time," Delaney said. "You don't want to be on the wrong side of history here.

"Frankly, a no vote is a helluva black eye."


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