The Jeff Morr Controversy
Jeff Morr, a gay entrepreneur, threatens to forego future Jacksonville investments until Jacksonville expands its human rights ordinance, which I see as enacting LGBT preferential rights.
However, he omits from his rationale the fact that the law is unnecessary.
Jacksonville is a welcoming city to all people. The alleged bigotry is simply not present. Claims of intolerance are disproved by Jacksonville’s unrivaled LGBT population, which is greater per capita, according to Gallup, than any other Florida city, and greater than cities which adopted special LGBT rights.
In 2015, before the ordinance was an issue, Mr Morr made his first local acquisition, followed by others, declaring “people are very welcoming here.” He, like numerous investors, chose Jacksonville when there was no LGBT ordinance, confirming that the law’s absence has no bearing on where he invests.
Just a week before his threat, Mr Morr brought investors to Jacksonville to trumpet its advantages. Both investors and the LGBT community are drawn to Jacksonville by the exceptional features that make the City great: Opportunity, climate, environment, culture and low taxes and costs.
There’s a myth that the local economy is weakened when LGBT laws are absent. The opposite has been the case. This journal reports that, in the 12 months following rejection of the same law in 2012, Jacksonville saw “the greatest economic improvement in the entire country, boasts one of the top 20 economies” and became the “strongest in Florida”.
And, there’s an oft-repeated hoax – that employers avoid Jacksonville because it lacks a LGBT ordinance. That’s Mr Morr’s claim. However, his economic extortion has a political goal – to coerce a law.
His underlying complaint is disproved by his recent investments and investor initiatives; both demonstrate satisfaction with the city’s cultural and economic climates.
UNF’s Jim Crooks revived the hoax in a recent letter to the city’s daily newspaper, claiming a large employer had bypassed Jacksonville due to the LGBT issue. Pressed to name the employer, he said: “I believe it (the name) was . . . mentioned [in 2012].” He wouldn’t tolerate such evasive hearsay from his students.
Councilman Aaron Bowman repeated the hoax in a Times-Union essay. Asked to name the company, he insisted “I’m not at liberty to say”. He had another opportunity during the February 4 City Council meeting, but instead confessed: “The companies won’t tell us.”
Finally, this expansive law imperils business survival and personal conscience and requires free speech control. The 15-employee exemption is usually nullified; most businesses will be regulated as “public accommodations.”
Legal defense against one complaint will exceed $20,000, excluding fines, complainant legal fees and criminal prosecution.
The official victim alone determines when an actionable offense has occurred; protected is every mannerism, gesture, appearance, action, language and attire which he or she deems gender expression.
The appeasing of economic extortion will only encourage more. [Mr Morr’s scheme is a preview of the unjustified coercion to be inflicted upon business if this law is enacted.]
And, an appeasing law will endanger businesses – to fix a grievance that is untrue.
There is no community-wide intolerance. Foremost LGBT demographer Gary J. Gates of the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute confirms that Jacksonville is alluring without such laws: “There’s little or no evidence that same-sex couples consider LGBT laws in deciding where to move,” with migration patterns looking like the rest of the population [to the West and South].
“States reporting the biggest increases in same-sex couples,”he says, “are among the most socially-conservative states in the nation.”
Philip Wemhoff, Physicist
Our Press Release on the Jeff Morr controversy can be found here.
2016Mar04: Morr's Threat is a Preview of the Coercion to be Inflicted on Business if the LGBT Law Passes
Philip Wemhoff, Letter to the Editor | March 04, 2016 | Jacksonville Business Journal