Last night the Jacksonville City Council voted to withdraw two bills which would have added the new categories of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to Jacksonville’s longstanding nondiscrimination ordinance. Beginning last year, Liberty Counsel established a prominent leadership role opposing these dangerous proposed laws. The efforts of Liberty Counsel and a coalition of community pastors and leaders successfully turned back the bills’ supporters.
Either of the proposed bills would have granted enormous power to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints against law-abiding citizens of Jacksonville, subpoena their documents, impose fines and attorney’s fees, sue them in court, and refer their cases for criminal prosecution. Any church welcoming a “non-member” could have lost its religious exemption; organizations with a religious mission to feed the homeless or arrange adoptions would have been exposed to liability for professing their beliefs; the law would have redefined “male” and “female” for all nurseries and preschools, even many church schools; and any man claiming a female “identity” would have gained unchallenged access to women-only bathrooms and dressing rooms.
Last year Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry invited Roger Gannam, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, to speak at three public community meetings where the proposed laws were debated. After those meetings, Mayor Curry announced his conclusion that the new laws are not needed. In the wake of these public debates and the Mayor’s announcement, Liberty Counsel joined leading Jacksonville pastors from every part of the city in a landmark press conference urging the City Council Members to vote against the ordinances for the sake of religious liberty and Jacksonville families. At last night’s meeting, the leading sponsor of the new legislation moved to withdraw his own bill, admitting that he did not have the votes to pass it, having failed to answer the demonstrated threats to religious liberty and to the privacy and safety of women and children in bathrooms.
“The withdrawal of the Jacksonville bills represents another victory for families and religious liberty, both of which are under an unrelenting attack by the national LGBT machine,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The withdrawal also shows that when pastors and other Christian people stand up and let their voices be heard, they can change the debate and win the battle,” he continued, “but the dangers of these LGBT laws are lurking in every community, so we must remain vigilant.”
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.