The Jacksonville City Council passed a revised anti-discrimination bill that amends the city's existing Human Rights Ordinance, according to News4Jax. An earlier version had been overturned in court following a challenge from the conservative Liberty Council, an SPLC-designated hate group. Republican Mayor Lenny Curry is expected to sign the bill into law which was approved on a resounding 15-4 vote.
"The LGBT community thought this was a battle that we had won three years ago," Jimmy Midyette, legal director for the Coalition for Equality, is quoted by News4Jax. "So when the ruling came down, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty.
The new revisions passed by the city council remove those uncertainties.
Both the earlier version and the one just passed sought to amend existing law by adding sexual orientation and gender identity "wherever categories are listed." Following Curry's signature, sexual orientation is now defined as "an individual's actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual," while gender identity "shall mean the gender-related identity, appearance, or expression of a person."
The two-term Republican Curry had let the earlier version of the bill become law without his signature. Safely re-elected, though, he told others he intends to sign the new version. The city council currently has 13 Republicans and only six Democrats, so the passage was a bipartisan event.
The Orlando-based Liberty Council had filed suit against the bill as originally passed, claiming state law requires publishing the revisions in advance. The earlier law only listed the ordinances to be amended and the definitions rather than the full text of the revised sections. Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal narrowly agreed by noting the purpose of the requirement is to prevent statutes passed "in terms so blind that legislators themselves were sometimes deceived in regard to their effect" and that providing the full text in advance "is required because that alone provides adequate notice of the legal change being made."
Liberty Counsel Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs Roger Gannam made clear the real intent of his organization's efforts when he misrepresented the efforts following the earlier court victory.
"The fair and honest people of Jacksonville should not be forced to participate in others' celebrations of same-sex relationships under threat of fines or loss of their businesses, and Jacksonville's women and young girls should feel safe from predatory men in their own restrooms and facilities," he said in a statement at the time.
Midyette, meanwhile, welcomes the re-passage of the changes, noting the earlier law had brought about real change and greater tolerance.
"It's not just a feel-good measure," he said. "It does actual good."