JACKSONVILLE (FBW)—Florida Family Policy Council President and General Counsel John Stemberger stood with Jacksonville leaders June 4 outside of City Council chambers where members of the Rules Committee prepared to discuss a proposal banning discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation and "gender identity or expression."
Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who successfully led the 2008 effort to pass a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage in Florida, stood with former Jacksonville City Council President Ginger Soud, legal expert Roger Gannam, Attorney Joey Vaughn and other leaders, to highlight major concerns regarding the city’s proposed gay rights ordinance, 2012-296.
Vaughn, a local attorney and longtime member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, said the new ordinance could violate religious liberty, create new protected classes of individuals, and expose the city to unnecessary litigation.
Vaughn disputed arguments of those supporting the bill who claim people are not moving to Jacksonville because of alleged widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians. Vaughn cited a May 18, 2012, article which surveyed college graduates looking for jobs that found Jacksonville the number three city in the country for relocation, jobs and overall “happiest cities in the country.”
Further, the studies cited and commissioned by gay rights activists show a supermajority – 85 percent of those surveyed – felt any prejudice against gays and lesbians was either “non-existent” or “low.”
Stemberger said the bill would undermine the long-term stability of Florida’s Marriage Protection Amendment.
Florida’s state constitutional amendment was adopted in 2008 by 62 percent of voters, including 69 percent in Jacksonville.
Soud, a former City Council president, insisted the bill creates more problems than it prevents. It is “bad for business,” “it is bad for personal and religious freedom,” and it’s “bad for families and children.”
Forced multi-gender restrooms, suppressed free speech in the workplace, and complicated religious exemptions are just the beginning of the issues it raises, she said.
“The citizens of Jacksonville should be alarmed by this legislation,” Soud said.
Soud spoke about other cities’ similar ordinances being overturned in Nebraska, Tennessee, Montana, New York and other locations.
“Let me be clear: Jacksonville is not alone in rejection of this legislation,” she said. The ordinance would be bad for businesses that would be forced to spend funds on gender-neutral facilities and questionable legal challenges. It would also suppress free speech, especially in the workplace; and freedom of religion, particularly at hospitals and health care facilities, she said.
Roger Gannam, a Jacksonville attorney who delivered a marked opinion to each of the council members that morning, said the bill infringes on rights.
“Ordinance 296 is probably the most radical and open-ended ordinance ever to be thrust upon the City of Jacksonville by organized outside forces,” Gannom said. “It allows government intrusion into private business decisions, will trample on people’s right to free speech and freedom of religion, and will assault the privacy and modesty of individuals and families.”
For more information, go to flfamily.org
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