Here is the full media interview of leaders across the city of Jacksonville taking a stand against the HRO.

Posted by Evangel Temple on Thursday, February 4, 2016

News Reports:

February 04, 2016 City Council Meeting

Left, Barronelle Stutzman, a featured

speakerat our February 04 pastors' luncheon, tells her story of religious oppression due to a similar LGBT law.  She traveled all the way from Washington state to help us.  Photo courtesy of WJCT News, Jacksonville.

Right, the press conference following the strategy luncheon.

Lori Boyer’s withdrawal motion highlights Jax HRO Committee of the Whole

By A.G. Gancarski February 4, 2016

The first of three meetings of the Jacksonville City Council Committee of the Whole on two Human Rights Ordinance expansion bills had all the drama you could want. Those paying attention would have noted that the real drama, the procedural drama, was set up hours ahead of this meeting.

Even before the three hour meeting on Thursday afternoon, Council VP Lori Boyer was mulling over the idea of potentially calling for a vote on both the Tommy Hazouri and Bill Gulliford bills, based on deliberation over the last few days, including consideration of the Lenny Curry executive order.

Instead, she called for withdrawal, to give Mayor Curry’s directive time to be examined. And she almost got it.

Advocates on both sides of the issue did media events before hand. The Jacksonville Civic Council issued a statement saying that while they “commend Mayor Curry’s Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination by the City and its vendors, for any reason including sexual orientation and gender identity… our community cannot stop there.

Gulliford, early on, extended the offer to Hazouri to withdraw his bill if Hazouri would withdraw his own. Hazouri’s response: “you go first and I’ll think about it.”

The two men, and their witnesses, made their cases. Then procedural drama took over.

Boyer soon thereafter spoke up, applauding Hazouri and Gulliford for their bills, and Anderson for the structure of the meetings, before pointing to a “third option,” calling the Mayor’s directive “no small step,” one worthy of deliberation.

“He expressly stated that no further legislation would be prudent,” and he asked for attention to the “violent crime epidemic.”

Boyer, saying she is not “personally comfortable” with the bill, noted the division among the body, potential “unintended conflicts,” and a potential citizen referendum, as well as “potential vetoes if our legislation is deemed imprudent.”

Anderson: “this is obviously different from the plan.”

Matt Schellenberg, the Rules Chair, immediately called the question. The motion to withdraw the Hazouri bill fell.

Hazouri then laid into Boyer, saying he was disappointed in her attempt to “kill the bills,” saying that the “violent crime issue will always be with us,” but “we don’t stop on issues” and “this is a copout.”

“I’d rather vote on this bill today then try to kill a bill that got so much input on both sides,” Hazouri said.

“It may go to a referendum… but where’s our backbone in addressing an issue that this city is so far behind in dealing with,” Hazouri added.

Gulliford then repeated his offer to withdraw his bill, before saying “this whole issue is in a state of flux” and that “the protection is so varied” from city to city.

“Are we to say that people of faith are to practice their religion within the context of their church, but when they step out of the walls they don’t?”

Gulliford, comparing opponents to “conscientious objectors,” said “let’s move on, let’s see how this thing evolves, and I support Boyer’s motion for withdrawal.”

Then, Reggie Brown: “Doing nothing is not an option,” saying that if nothing had been done in 1864 and 1964, he wouldn’t be sitting here.

“We had a process that we guaranteed the taxpayers,” Brown said.

Love, then Bowman, backed up Councilman Brown. Al Ferraro repeated his call, made at a meeting Friday, to pull the Hazouri bill. Danny Becton, noting that he didn’t have the “luxury of having Uncle Sam writing [him] a paycheck,” noted that he’d hired LGB people.

“We’ve heard a lot of stories from people whose parents didn’t love them, they were heckled,” Becton said, adding this bill wouldn’t do anything to help those situations.

“Let’s pass a resolution,” Becton thundered. “We’re very good at that.”

Joyce Morgan, meanwhile, called for a continuation of the process.

“This is not the only issue our city has been divided over,” Morgan said, adding “our word is our bond; this is all we have.”

She then laid into the “unintended consequences” trope, noting that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may have had them, but it was “the right thing to do.”

Reggie Gaffney referred to working with all populations in 22 years of social services work, saying “I want this process to move forward.”

“Some of my best friends is gay or lesbian,” Gaffney said, adding that a relative called to ask him what he would do on this bill.

“This city deserves a bill that’s going to protect everybody,” Gaffney added.

Doyle Carter, co-sponsor of the Gulliford bill, said that he would never discriminate against anyone, but unintended consequences “could happen.”

Gulliford attempted to steer the discourse back to withdrawal, saying that he’d held four community conversations on the subject as committee chair in 2012, that he had over 11,000 emails from then, and that in Atlantic Beach, the legislative proponents were ousted from office.

The banter continued.

Boyer, after some time, spoke up, expressing concern that Jacksonville “become a chessboard for players outside of this city,” and reiterated her question of whether or not, as the mayor said, such legislation is “prudent.”

Aaron Bowman then spoke up, saying companies look at Jacksonville, and say “this is not where we want to go,” advancing the prospect of a Jacksonville diminished in future years because of a lack of LGBT protections in law.

John Crescimbeni then referred to the Council President’s memo, saying that the mayor’s step was to be considered first according to that, and saying he’s concerned about “deviating from the process.”

He asked Council President Anderson his stand.

Anderson said the mayor’s directive was a “broad directive” with “a lot to unpack,” and then pointed to the “prudent thing to do” as “pressing the pause button,” and taking time over the next few months to study the issues.

Hazouri was asked, if the bill was withdrawn, if he’d file it again next week.

Hazouri’s response: “next week, next month, next year, and until it’s passed.”

The withdrawal motion, the second one on the Hazouri bill, fell 11-8.

During recess, Lori Boyer mentioned that she had told the mayor’s office that she was going to move toward withdrawal of the bill.

Boyer, saying that there may be conflicts with the departmental directive that people aren’t anticipating, noted that she wasn’t sure if the Hazouri bill had the necessary votes to pass, much less to override the veto.

The failure of the withdrawal motion does not mean that there couldn’t be another, even as soon as Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Lori Boyer is uniquely persuasive.

No matter what Council does, there are those who see this matter going to a ballot referendum anyway.

Bill Gulliford said that “even if we vote to withdraw,” there is a strong likelihood that the measure would make the ballot anyway, based on the petition drive that is underway by interested churches.

Meanwhile, Reggie Brown, who spoke memorably during the meeting about the intersection of civil rights for African-Americans and the push for LGBT protections, spoke about the difference in the process between 2012 and today.

“At least in 2012,” Brown said, “we were ready to make a decision.”

Brown’s concern: “I don’t want us to shirk our responsibility” to the public. Yet he has concerns, including a moral conflict between his spiritual beliefs and the public interest.

And, he said, he’s heard about this issue at town halls in his district.

But then he pointed toward the back of the chambers.

“You don’t see a lot of people here from my district because we have other issues,” Brown said, pointing out problems like insufficient running water and a need for vocational and technical training and jobs.

What is evident is that Council has divisions on this issue.

There are the social conservative types, like Danny Becton and Al Ferraro.

There are the pragmatists, who believe that Curry’s directive will have a meaningful impact, and that it will take time to figure out what that impact is before going forward.

And then there are those who believe that a primary function of law is to protect a minority without legal recourse from majority whim.

These divisions mirror the community at large. And it will be interesting to see how they manifest in the rest of the HRO debate of 2016.

Will there be other parliamentary moves? Will there be surprising votes?

For now, these are questions in search of answers.

HRO legislation survives early surprise test as City Council debate continues

By Christopher Hong Thu, Feb 4, 2016 @ 9:57 pm | updated Thu, Feb 4, 2016 @ 10:08 pm

Photo: Greg Anderson (left), president of the Jacksonville City Council, confers with Councilman Bill Gulliford. Anderson and Gulliford both voted in favor of withdrawing the legislation for an expanded Human Rights Ordinance.

A proposed law to extend discrimination protections to Jacksonville’s LGBT community survived an early and unexpected test Thursday after the City Council narrowly defeated an attempt to spike it.

In an 8 to 11 decision, the council voted against Councilwoman Lori Boyer’s move to withdraw the legislation.

The move came during the first of three special meetings the council is holding to vote on two bills that would expand the city’s anti-discrimination law or let voters decide whether to do so in a future election.

Boyer, the council’s vice-president and an influential veteran on the body, sought to withdraw both pieces of legislation before the council.

She said the dynamic of the debate changed after Mayor Lenny Curry announced last week he didn’t support expanding the city’s anti-discrimination law and called for City Hall to ensure its hiring and employment policies align with those of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

Boyer said the council remains divided on the issue and any legislation could be vetoed by Curry or overturned by a citizen-backed referendum.

In light of that, she urged the council to step back from the heated debate and focus on implementing Curry’s plan related to hiring and employment policies.

“Few of us would disagree with their call for civil and fair treatment of all our citizens ... but the playing field changed last Friday and now we have a third option,” Boyer said.

Many of her colleagues agreed. Council President Greg Anderson said the council should “press the pause button” and see how Curry’s plan would be put into place.

Councilman Al Ferraro said he supports withdrawing the bill because it divides the community and that he is also concerned that expanding discrimination protections could harm other groups.

But others pushed back.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who introduced the legislation to expand the discrimination protections, said the move to withdraw the bill was a “cop-out.”

Councilman Reginald Brown said doing nothing wasn’t an option.

“I can tell you if we did nothing in 1864, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” said Brown, an African-American. “If we have to come and sit here for three days, I’m prepared.”

While many council members spoke about the withdrawal and some voiced their support or opposition to expanding the city’s anti-discrimination law, it still remains unclear which, if any, legislation has enough votes to pass.

Aside from the unexpected political theater, the meeting also saw each proposal's sponsor present their case.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, who wants to let voters to decide whether to expand the discrimination protection, said a referendum would be the quickest way to decide the divisive issue.

Gulliford also argued two points: Expanded discrimination protection wasn’t necessary and it could have an adverse effect on small, religious-minded businesses.

To support his latter point, he called on Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist, to tell her story about how she was sued for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

Hazouri said it was long past due for the city to grant the LGBT community the same protections offered to every other group of citizens. He said his legislation would not just put in place the actions proposed by the mayor, but protect all other citizens from discrimination.

“These protections, contrary to many remarks we’ve heard, are not special rights... they’re simply human privileges,” Hazouri said. “We’ve been frozen in time for too long. Now’s the time, now’s the opportunity for Jacksonville to move forward. Now’s the time to leave absolutely no one behind.”

The council is set to continue its process at another special meeting Feb. 18. to discuss Gulliford’s legislation.

Council members will meet again March 3 to discuss Hazouri’s legislation and vote on both proposals.

Since Gulliford and Hazouri introduced their legislation at the beginning of this year, the controversial issue has loomed over City Hall.

Advocates for both sides have worked tirelessly to influence council members, sending e-mails, writing letters, seeking high-profile endorsements and staging marathon public comment sessions during public meetings.

Those efforts continued Thursday.

The Jacksonville Civic Council sent a letter to each council member advocating for a fully-inclusive anti-discrimination bill.

Meanwhile, a group of pastors and others against the discrimination protections, including Stutzman, met at a gathering at the First Baptist Church just before the council meeting.

Christopher Hong: (904) 359-4272

Jacksonville HRO battle attracts voices from out of town

by: Jenna Bourne Updated: Feb 4, 2016 - 10:46 PM

The Jacksonville City Council held a meeting on the city's Human Rights Ordinance on Thursday night.

Jacksonville’s battle over whether to expand its Human Rights Ordinance to cover the LGBT community is putting the city in the national spotlight and attracting out-of-town interests.

Council members and members of the community on both sides of this issue expressed their concerns in city hall Thursday night about outside influences.

“We can lose everything,” said Baronelle Stutzman before city council Thursday night.

It was an emotional plea from the florist, who declined to supply flowers for a gay couple’s wedding.

“Now the government is trying to force me to create expressions that violate my religious beliefs and all because of the law like the one you’re considering,” said Stutzman.

She’s not from Jacksonville; she’s in town from Washington along with several other groups from out of town.

“I would like us to have a Jacksonville solution for this Jacksonville problem,” said Jacksonville Coalition for Equality chair Dan Merkan. “I don’t think it really makes sense to be importing people here to tell us about their problems when we haven’t figured out how to solve our own problems.”

Council Vice President Lori Boyer is also worried about outside influences.

“I am concerned that we as a city become a chess board for players from outside our city,” said Boyer.

She wanted to withdraw both HRO expansion bills Thursday night.

One would require council to make the big decision and the other would let Jacksonville voters decide.

That didn’t fly.

Despite Mayor Lenny Curry, council president Greg Anderson and Boyer wanting to press pause, the council decided to move forward with a vote.

Council will have two more meetings of discussion and public comment.

The next one is Feb. 18 from 3-6 p.m.

Council won’t actually vote on the two bills until March 3.

HRO opponents announce petition drive if bill putting issue to City Council vote passes

by: Lorena Inclan Updated: Feb 4, 2016 - 9:28 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Wearing “No to HRO” tags, dozens of religious leaders gathered at First Baptist Church Thursday to express their opposition to expanding Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance.

“Say no to the HRO. Jacksonville is a tolerant city,” said pastor Fred Newbill of First Timothy Baptist Church.

Before speaking to the media, the group participated in a closed-door luncheon organized by the Orlando-based group Florida Family Policy Council. During the news conference, the participants showed a stack of petitions from people who stand in opposition to the HRO expansion, which would allow protections against discrimination to the LGBT community.

City Council members voted against withdrawing opposing bills Thursday. One bill would put the issue to a public vote and the other, sponsored by Councilman Tommy Hazouri and cosponsored by Councilmen Aaron Bowman and Jim Love, would make it so that the council has to vote.

“If the Hazouri bill passes through the council and becomes law, we have built a network so that we can obtain the signatures necessary to repeal that law,” said Roger Gannam of the Liberty Counsel.

They would need 27,000 signatures in order to get it on the ballot.

On the other side of this debate is the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, whose chairman, Dan Merkan, believes the opposition is worried.

“What it indicates to me is that the opposition doesn't believe they have the votes to stop this from happening so they're trying to come up with another method of undermining our elected officials,” said Merkan.

Merkan said the issue is simple.

“You can't put rights to a popular vote. It's just an inappropriate use of a ballot,” said Merkan.

The Florida Family Policy Council said it doesn’t know if it has the support needed in the council right now. 

The main concern from the opposition centers on religious freedoms. The council claims the HRO would force its members to go against their convictions.

“We've never seen a version of a law like this that works, so if there is a compromise, I'm not aware of it,” said Gannam.

But Merkan disagrees.

“We have 109 faith leaders that have come out and supported, mostly from Christian denominations, and this is an issue that has broad support,” said Merkan.

The City Council will debate the issue again on Feb. 18. 

Jacksonville City Council wraps up meeting without final decision on HRO

by: Jenna Bourne Updated: Feb 4, 2016 - 7:15 PM 

The Jacksonville City Council wrapped up a meeting Thursday night without making a final decision on expanding the city's Human Rights Ordinance.           

The goal of the ordinance is to make sure that everyone in the city has equal rights in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Council members were looking at two bills that would extend protections to members of the LGBT community. They shared strong feelings about whether to drop two HRO bills.

Both the Council President Greg Anderson and Council Vice President Lori Boyer called for a vote on whether to withdraw the bills and essentially press the pause button, but it didn't fly.

In an 11-8 vote, council members voted to decide on who will vote. One bill puts the choice in the hands of the people in a referendum and another bill puts the choice in the hands of the City Council.

This comes after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry doesn't believe the city needs an ordinance. He says there are state and federal protections. He sent an email to all city workers last week making sure they’re complying with those protections.

Though several council members are pushing for the HRO, Curry does not support it. But he said he will expand hiring policies to protect people from discrimination. That didn't sit well with all council members.

"Why have we taken so long? Shame on us if we don't take action today?" said council member Tommy Hazouri.

"The prudent thing to do is press the pause button," said Anderson.

Boyer said she is worried about Jacksonville becoming a "chess piece" for interests outside the city.

Motion to kill Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance bills fails

Fight to protect gay rights in Jacksonville

Roger Weeder and Garrett Pelican 6:47 PM. EST February 04, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville City Council debate over whether an expansion of the city's Human Rights Ordinance is necessary will continue -- at least, for now.

At a committee hearing Thursday, the council rejected a motion to withdraw two bills that would put additional protections for LGBT people up for votes, one of which would require voter approval.

The hearing marked the first time the council had met to discuss the issue since Mayor Lenny Curry broke his silence on the matter last month, saying he did not think any additional legislation is warranted.

At the request of councilman Bill Gulliford, who's backing a bill that would let voters the fate of a proposed expansion of the HRO, asked attorney Damon Kitchen to speak. Kitchen explained that LGBT people are already protected from discrimination by existing state and federal laws.

Kitchen said additional legislation, whether approved by a council vote or referendum, would impose another layer of redundant, and potentially costly, regulation on taxpayers. 

"In light of this, I will withdraw my bill if (councilman Tommy Hazouri) agrees to do so," Gulliford said following Kitchen's testimony. A motion to withdraw both bills failed to pass.

Hazouri, who's backing a bill that he says would guarantee every citizen in Jacksonville equal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, didn't budge.

"We're been frozen in time for too long," the former mayor told the committee. "Now is the time for Jacksonville to move forward. Now is the time to leave absolutely no one behind."

Hazouri, who cited the Emancipation Proclamation and the civil rights and women's liberation movements, called for the committee to take action Thursday and pass his bill.

"These protections are not special privileges...these are human rights," the councilman said.

Attorney Bill Sheppard echoed Hazouri's remarks and voiced concerns about whether such a pivotal vote on an issue concerning diversity and civil rights should be decided by members of the public. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 would have never passed if "we put it to the people," Sheppard said.

A few blocks away from City Hall, more than 100 pastors met at First Baptist Church with one message in mind: "No to HRO." The clergy vowed to fight any attempt to extend rights to members of the homosexual and transgender community.

"It teaches that the members of our community embrace homosexual and transgender behavior and it teaches that is to be accepted," said Heath Lambert, associate pastor at First Baptist Church.

Several clergy expressed concerns of public bathrooms becoming potentially dangerous if the city expands rights for members of the LGBT community.

"Keep men out of women's restrooms, then keep the men and out of the women's shower," said pastor Fred Newbill.

The clergy say they have a network in place to gather signatures to challenge any legislation to expand the HRO that might mass.

But not all of Jacksonville's religious leaders are opposed to expanding protections provided by the HRO. Rabbi Joshua Lief with the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality says there is another viewpoint in this debate being overlooked.

"Equal rights, we only have them for ourselves if we ensure them for everyone else," said Lief.

Mayor Curry previously weighed in, saying he does not support expanding the HRO, but issued a directive that the city follow all federal and state laws that prohibits all forms of employment discrimination.  The mayoral decision applies to all city employees and vendors who do business with the city.

Since 2012, the council has wrestled whether to afford additional protections against discrimination to gays and lesbians. 

The next hearings are set for Feb. 18 and March 3. 

Religious-Liberty Coalition Vows To Fight Jax LGBT Bill; Withdrawal Motion Fails

By Jessica Palombo & Lindsey Kilbride • WJCT 04Feb2016 

Photo: Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman speaks against LGBT protections at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Stutzman was sued after she violated her state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to make floral arrangements for a gay wedding.

Updated Thurs. 2/04 at 8 p.m.:

The Jacksonville City Council has voted 11-8 against withdrawing a bill that would prohibit LGBT discrimination.

The Jacksonville City Council began debating two anti-discrimination bills dealing with protections for LGBT residents Thursday.


One bill would add protections for people in the areas of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the city’s human-rights ordinance outright. The other would have the public vote on the matter.

The city’s human rights ordinance already protections people in the areas of religion, race and sex in housing, public accommodations and employment.

The Council’s first meeting to discuss the bills Thursday didn’t go as expected. Instead of deliberating on the bills, Councilwoman Lori Boyer proposed a third option: withdraw them "and work together on the other great challenges that face our city. Let us get our own house in order and implement the mayor’s directive before we take any potentially conflicting action or heighten the public controversy.”

Last week, Mayor Lenny Curry adjusted the city’s hiring policy to prohibit LGBT discrimination. At the same time, he said he opposes both bills extending those same potections to all city residents.

Bill Gulliford is sponsoring the bill that would let the public decide. He said he’d withdraw his bill if the one sponsored by Tommy Hazouri was withdrawn too. Hazouri refused.

Councilman Reggie Brown, who’s African-American, said withdrawing the bills would be a mistake.

“I can tell you that if we did nothing in 1864 I wouldn't be sitting here. If we didn’t do anything in 1964, I wouldn’t be sitting here so I’m not in favor of doing nothing,” he said. “But more importantly we made a promise. We said that we would have three meetings. We had a process that we guaranteed the taxpayers.”

The Jacksonville City Council Votes against withdrawing Councilman Tommy Hazouri's human rights ordinance bill.

Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

The meetings will continue as planned, and a final vote is expected in March.

Meanwhile, a religious-liberty coalition is already campaigning to repeal Hazouri's bill if it passes.

Local pastors and lawyers from across the country are banding together to collect signatures for a repeal referendum. The coalition announced its petition drive Thursday at the First Baptist Church preschool, which they say is a threatened place if the Council outlaws LGBT discrimination.



“Church pre-schools that accept VPK money from the state of Florida are already considered public accommodations under existing Jacksonville non-discrimination law,” said Liberty Council lawyer Roger Gannam.

Right now, schools can’t turn someone away for being a certain race, but they can refuse to accept kids of gay parents, and the coalition wants to keep it that way Gannam applauds Mayor Lenny Curry’s stance.

“We think with the leadership of the mayor on this issue, it should discourage the Council from bringing it back year after year. We don’t believe Mr. Curry will change his mind,” he says.

Curry has not said whether he’d veto the bills if Council passes one. If he doesn’t, the coalition says it’s already collected more than a third of the roughly 27,000 signatures needed to get a repeal on the ballot.

The original story is below:

The Jacksonville City Council has voted 11-8 against withdrawing a bill that would prohibit LGBT discrimination.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer introduced the motion to withdraw the bill by Councilman Tommy Hazouri Thursday. She said that would allow the Council to follow Mayor Lenny Curry's directive.

Last week Curry said he does not support either Hazouri's bill or one by Councilman Bill Gulliford. Gulliford's would put the question to the public as a referendum instead of having Council vote on it. 

The Council will now debate both of the bills before a vote scheduled for March. 

Meanwhile, a religious-liberty coalition is already campaigning to repeal Hazouri's bill if it passes.


Hear the story airing on 89.9 WJCT

Local pastors and lawyers from across the country are banding together to collect signatures for a repeal referendum. The coalition announced its petition drive Thursday at the First Baptist Church preschool, which they say is a threatened place if the Council outlaws LGBT discrimination.

“Church pre-schools that accept VPK money from the state of Florida are already considered public accommodations under existing Jacksonville non-discrimination law,” said Liberty Council lawyer Roger Gannam.

Right now, schools can’t turn someone away for being a certain race, but they can refuse to accept kids of gay parents, and the coalition wants to keep it that way Gannam applauds Mayor Lenny Curry’s stance.

“We think with the leadership of the mayor on this issue, it should discourage the Council from bringing it back year after year. We don’t believe Mr. Curry will change his mind,” he says.

Curry has not said whether he’d veto the bills if Council passes one. If he doesn’t, the coalition says it’s already collected more than a third of the roughly 27,000 signatures needed to get a repeal on the ballot. 

Press Conference of Jacksonville Pastors and Liberty Counsel on LGBT Ordinance

"No council member has the right to make law-abiding-citizens and religious institutions vulnerable to the depth of religious persecution that is established by this law"

By Liberty Counsel -- Bio and Archives  February 4, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, FL - Today leading pastors in Jacksonville are hosting a press conference regarding the concerns of the religious community about the dangerous consequences of two proposed LGBT “nondiscrimination” city ordinances. The press conference, at 2:30 p.m. ET today at the First Baptist Church, Preschool Building Lobby, First Floor, 124 West Ashley Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202, will also be joined by Liberty Counsel’s Senior Litigation Counsel, Roger Gannam, to answer any reporters’ questions, time permitting.

The Jacksonville City Council is considering two LGBT proposals: The first is for the Council to vote on adding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the city’s current nondiscrimination policy. The second proposal is to have the same law presented to the voters of Jacksonville as a referendum. Both would grant enormous power to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints against law-abiding citizens of Jacksonville, subpoena their documents, impose fines and attorney’s fees, sue them in court, and refer their cases for criminal prosecution. Any church that welcomes a “non-member” could lose its religious exemption; organizations with a religious mission to feed the homeless or arrange adoptions are exposed to liability for professing their beliefs; the law would redefine “male” and “female” for all nurseries and preschools, even many church schools; and any man claiming a female “identity” will gain unchallenged access to women-only bathrooms and dressing rooms.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has held three public community meetings to discuss the ordinances, after which his opinion is that the LGBT ordinances are not needed, publicly announcing, “I do not believe any further legislation would be prudent.” Now the City Council is holding three of its own community meetings: tonight, February 18, and March 3, 2016.

“No council member has the right to make law-abiding citizens and religious institutions vulnerable to the depth of religious persecution that is established by this law,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Nationwide, cake bakers, photographers, and florists have already lost their religious freedoms, and some were forced to close their businesses at the behest of the LGBT lobby. Jacksonville does not need to welcome this radical social experiment onto the shoulders of local business owners and taxpayers.”

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.