The fight for LGBT equality in Jacksonville, Florida is temporarily on hold as of Saturday, when city councilman and former mayor Tommy Hazouri announced his intention to withdraw legislation that would expand the city’s human rights ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
Jacksonville remains one of the largest U.S. cities to not guarantee equal protection to LGBT residents, and despite the huge blow to his proposed bill, it’s an issue Councilman Hazouri has vowed to continue fighting.
“The City Council and many citizens of Jacksonville still have sincere questions and are not ready to move forward on this issue,” Hazouri said in a written statement to press, adding that he intends to formally withdraw the bill on Thursday at a special city council meeting addressing this issue specifically.
“Be assured, this bill and this issue is coming back,” he said. “I believe that passing this legislation, 2016-002, is imperative if we are truly to be One City- One Jacksonville. It defines who we are as a city- a city that is inclusive and competitive.”
“Today, we are stuck in the past, frozen in time, when it comes to human rights.”
Hazouri has received strong pushback from opponents of expanding the city’s human rights ordinance on the false claim that it would easily allow adult men to prey on young girls in public bathrooms.
As was the case with Houston’s failed HERO legislation, some Jacksonville residents expressed fear over the thought of sharing restrooms with transgender people.
The next step, according to The Florida Times-Union, could come in the form of referendum:
The council is in the middle of deciding whether to approve Hazouri’s bill or competing legislation, introduced by Councilman Bill Gulliford, that would let voters decide whether to expand the city’s anti-discrimination law in a referendum. Putting the issue up for voters to decide is a move widely believed to favor the movement against expansion.
Gulliford however told the paper Saturday that he’ll consider withdrawing his competing bill if Hazouri follows through in withdrawing his.
“There are many more important things we need to be engaged in right now,” he said.