Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Scores Low in LGBT Tolerance; Jacksonville Second-Lowest in State, Human Rights Campaign Report Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Scores Low in LGBT Tolerance; Jacksonville Second-Lowest in State, Human Rights Campaign Report Says

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Jacksonville lags far behind other large Florida cities in its policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Campaign.

Jacksonville scored 20 out of 100, which is below the national average of 59 and the Florida average of 65 for cities examined by the report.

St. Petersburg, Orlando and Wilton Manors were Florida cities that received scores of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign said the annual report, now in its third year, highlights changes at the local level where cities are moving faster than states or the federal government.

Jacksonville scored low because it lacks many of the policies that the Human Rights Campaign uses as benchmarks.

For instance, the City Council rejected adding sexual orientation in 2012 to the city's anti-discrimination laws.

Ellen Schmitt, president of PFLAG of Jacksonville, a group that supports adding sexual orientation to Jacksonville's human rights ordinance, said she hopes the Human Rights Campaign report will help push city leaders to take up that issue again.

"I've been disappointed in our city for not being more progressive with regard to ensuring equal rights for all people who live in our community, including LGBT people," she said. "I hope it motivates people in our city to reflect and make a change for the better for all our people who live here."

Roger Gannam, an attorney who has spoken frequently against adding sexual orientation to the local law, said the Human Rights Campaign scorecard measures government policies, but it doesn't gauge the attitude of Jacksonville residents, who he said are "very accepting and very good" toward LGBT people. …

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