Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gays at Center of Civil Rights Movement

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gays at Center of Civil Rights Movement

Article excerpt

Anyone slightly familiar with the attempt to pass a human rights ordinance for the LGBT community in Jacksonville knows how emotional that was.

Lengthy discussions both in committee and the City Council meetings often became tense.

Though supporters of the bill at first were confident of passage, it was narrowly defeated.

So it was interesting to see the issue debated last week in an atmosphere designed to foster civil discussions of controversial issues.

A panel of six people was designed to include three supporters and three opponents of a human rights ordinance, but the Rev. Torrin Dailey of First Baptist Church of Oakland threw a curve ball. While recognizing that many African-American ministers oppose these laws on religious grounds, Dailey said there should be no right to discriminate.

The Civil Discourse series was begun by the Times-Union, WJCT and OneJax to go beyond the nasty exchanges so common on Internet message boards.

The series is intended to foster the kind of lively, respectful debate that is typical of the Email Interactive Group in the Times-Union's opinion pages.

There is no bigger challenge to such discussions than the issue of gay rights.

Is it OK to deny someone employment, a loan, housing or a seat in a restaurant simply because that person is gay?

There is no federal protection. Currently, it is against the law to deny these rights solely if the person is black, a woman or elderly, for instance.

Those supporting a gay rights ordinance see this as the civil rights cause of our time.

The LGBT community would receive the same sort of protections received by women, minorities and the elderly, for instance.

A LOCAL EXAMPLE

In the meantime, Atlantic Beach spent nearly a year debating such an ordinance before passing it last August.

So Jacksonville can watch Atlantic Beach to see if the ordinance works in reality.

The Atlantic Beach ordinance requires equal treatment of LGBT people when applying for jobs, homes, loans and public accommodations.

Exempt are religious organizations, businesses with fewer than 15 employees and landlords with four or fewer rooms or homes for rent.

Those exemptions appear to deal with the major objections listed by City Councilman Bill Gulliford during the civil discourse discussion.

Key to many objections is the contention that there simply is not enough discrimination to justify such an ordinance. …

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