Human Rights Ordinance Still Going; Atlantic Beach Next City Where Bill to Protect Gays, Lesbians Considered

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler

ATLANTIC BEACH | The next battleground in Duval County for the passage of a human rights ordinance will be this coastal city, where a group that failed to help drive through similar legislation in Jacksonville has the ear of at least one city commissioner.

City Commissioner Maria Mark said she has been in discussions for months with the Jacksonville Coalition of Equality about the creation of an ordinance that would protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

The talks began several months after the Jacksonville City Council turned down a similar bill in August 2012 in a hotly contested 10-9 vote, said Mark and Dan Merkan, the coalition's steering team coordinator.

"I think it's a matter of fairness," Mark said. "No one should be discriminated against based on anything, and sexual orientation, to me, is an important part of that."

The wording of the legislation and related matters will be discussed at a City Commission workshop on Nov. 25.

The item is part of a regular agenda designed to discuss business for the next commission meeting, which is Dec. 9

Merkan said his group reached out to Mark after polling about the Duval County issue by the University of North Florida showed that a majority of Beaches-area residents showed their support for a human rights ordinance.

Michael Binder, assistant professor of political science at UNF, said that the poll of 900 people, included about 100 at the Beaches.

Binder said two-thirds of that 100 favored a human rights ordinance, statistically topped only by downtown and Riverside residents.

While Atlantic Beach has some wording against discrimination in its housing code, the ordinance would be designed to strengthen that language and add protections in the workplace and public accommodations, Merkan said.

"It's a common sense thing to do," Merkan said. …