Last night, something truly unforgettable happened in Jacksonville, Florida. Outside the City Hall building, there were people dancing, couples hugging, and an overall sense of celebration was abuzz across the city.
In a 12-6 vote, the Jacksonville City Council passed a human rights ordinance that extends protections for the LGBTQ community for the city. That means gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Floridians living in the City of Jacksonville can rest assured they will receive the same employment, housing, and public accommodation protections as their straight peers.
The vote, however, was a long time coming, and for some time, GLAAD has worked with key community leaders to help build a greater, positive understanding as to why LGBTQ Floridians needed acceptance in their communities.
Ross Murray, GLAAD’s Director of Programs for the U.S. South, traveled to Jacksonville in June 2016 to be a part of local events aimed at building support.. As a consecrated deacon himself, Ross met with a diverse body of faith leaders from across the city for a discussion on the importance of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ Floridians and how they can advocate for acceptance.
After this successful luncheon, Ross also represented GLAAD as a panelist for “Tipping Point: Jacksonville’s Role in the National LGBT Discussion.” From North Carolina’s HB2 to discussing the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Ross and other panelists fine-tuned ways to the community and allies could come together and help push a positive, inclusive message for LGBTQ Floridians.
Not only were the events successful, but GLAAD was able to help engage with community leaders and hear their concerns about the obstacles that existed with the overall LGBTQ community in Jacksonville and the South as a whole.
Ultimatelty, it came down to the hard work of Jacksonville Equality and the many other local advocates that helped bring the Human Rights Ordinance across the finish line. And this hard work was reflected in the celebration and joy coming from the many Floridians last night. With this HRO, all major cities in Florida now have LGBTQ protections in their nondiscrimination laws.
And while the fight for full equality still moves on, including the goal of passing statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Floridians, knowing that more folks within the community receive the protections they deserve menergizes us all for the fights ahead.