City Council hearing on HRO ends after two days, 8 hours of testimony

By The Times-Union  Posted January 25, 2017 09:07 am - Updated January 25, 2017 01:59 pm

After supporters and opponents of a proposed anti-discrimination law for LGBT people spoke at Tuesday’s City Council until midnight, council members heard several more hours of passionate testimony after resuming the public hearing Wednesday morning.

More than a thousand people showed up Tuesday at City Hall, and hundreds of them spoke to the council. The crowd filled the building past capacity, prompting officials to limit entry to one in, one out.

The council suspended its meeting at midnight and resumed it Wednesday morning.

More people returned for their chance to speak, and the meeting lasted another several hours.

The legislation, also referred to as the Human Rights Ordinance or the HRO, would extend the city’s current anti-discrimination law to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also contains provisions that exempt religious organizations and businesses with less than 15 employees.

Supporters said Jacksonville, one of the last major cities without discrimination protections for its LGBT community, needs to protect all of its citizens and will miss out on retaining residents and economic development opportunities if it doesn’t.

“Our city needs to be a city of inclusion and a city of brotherly love, as the Bible said,” said Susan Gallow. “I’ve been proud to be a member of this community, and I’d be even more proud if this passed.”

Opponents said they fear the legislation would impose on their religious belief that homosexuality is a sin and said they didn’t believe the lack of discrimination protections was a business disadvantage for the city.

“We have not attacked the LGBT, but the churches are being attacked by them,” said Earl Mobley. “I submit to you that any HRO submitted is unacceptable to Yahweh, God.”

Roughly 700 people who came to the meeting on Tuesday didn’t speak and simply filled out cards stating their position; 500 were in favor, while 193 were opposed.

The number of speakers and their position on the issue were not immediately available.

The council didn’t discuss or vote on the legislation at their meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll begin debate early next month and could make a final vote Feb. 14.


Media Reports, 2017 Bill