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Florida Appeals Court Strikes Down Jacksonville Anti-Discrimination Law

May 21st, 2020

An appeals court recently struck down Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination law due to how it was adopted, but the city council is already working on a fix.

An appeals court in Florida recently struck down Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination law. The law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas like public accommodation, employment, and housing. Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals reversed the decision made by a Duval County court to dismiss a challenge to the city’s human-rights ordinance.

As part of its decision, the appeals court expressed support of plaintiffs who argued that the 2017 amendments protecting LGBTQ individuals were “null and void” because the amendments violated Florida state law based on the manner in which they were adopted

How the Case Arose

Jacksonville’s struggle with how to address LGBTQ rights has been ongoing for several years. In 2012, efforts to pass an LGBTQ anti-discrimination law in the city failed. The 2012 vote was close with only slightly more people voting against the law than in favor of it.

In 2017, the Jacksonville City Council passed an anti-discrimination law that it claimed would amend the city’s statutes to address gender identity and sexual orientation. Instead of getting the full text of the amendments approved, however, the city council attempted to get an ordinance approved stating that the city’s office of general counsel would write the amendments at a later date.

While lower courts dismissed lawsuits arguing that the ordinance was unconstitutional, a unanimous, three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals later held that how the ordinance was passed violated state and city laws. A lawyer who lobbied against the ordinance and who initiated the lawsuit against the city stated that he thought the City Council had first attempted to file a shorter version of the bill so it would not seem like as substantial a change

Response to the Anti-Discrimination Law

The original Jacksonville regulation had both supporters as well as detractors. While many spoke out about how the measures would protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals in Jacksonville, opponents of the regulation argued that it would be detrimental to the city’s social fabric.

The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality even commented on Facebook that the challenge to the measure over how it was passed meant that the court had found no constitutional arguments in the protections themselves. The incoming City Council President also agreed and commented that he would not attempt to alter the substance of the law. Just last week on May 12, a bill was introduced in the Jacksonville City Council to fix the anti-discrimination ordinance so that it passed constitutional muster, and it appears to have broad support.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

There have both been LGBTQ advancements like the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, as well as setbacks to LGBTQ rights like the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. Currently, many areas of LGBTQ rights are in the process of being decided, and the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy of these developments.

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