By David Vandygriff
February 14, 2017 Jacksonville was one of the last metropolitan cities to pass protections for LGBT in housing, employment and public accommodations. A five year process that saw both sides converge on Jacksonville City Hall time and time again. The final vote by Jacksonville City Council was veto proof. This was before Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States.
In recent weeks a movement after the murder of a young woman in Charolettesville, VA following a KKK, Nazi and White Supremacist rally around the removal of a confederate monument.
That following Monday Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche called for an inventory and public discussion on Jacksonville’s confederate monuments to be moved to a museum.
Prior to the clashes in Charolettesville Donald Trump had called for the U.S. Military to ban transgender complete from all areas of the military. A move that was not discussed with U.S. Military leaders prior to his announced via Tweeter.
And here we are now this week and see a new group called Empower Jacksonville announces plans to call for a referendum on Jacksonville’s expanded Human Rights Ordinance. The very same people that oppose the HRO expansion are very much the same individuals opposing the removal of confederate monuments in Jacksonville.
On Thursday at First Baptist Church downtown, Empower Jacksonville said it would collect signatures for two August 2018 ballot initiatives: one a non-binding straw ballot on whether voters agree with the City Council’s vote, and another to amend the City Charter so citizens will have the ability to repeal any law passed by City Council.
The group must first pass via referendum the ability to change ordinances passed by the City Council. Thus, the group is conducting the HRO part as a straw poll with the other as a referendum to change the ordinances passed by City Council as a separate issue.
The same group had filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn the anti-discrimination law and are now turning to petition drives in an attempt to discriminate against LGBT in Jacksonville. A move the City Council sought to prevent our city from experiencing on the national media stage.
To get on the ballot, a petition must collect signatures from at least five percent of the county’s registered voters, which translates to about 29,000 signatures.
Empower Jacksonville is backed by the Liberty Council, which has already challenged Jacksonville's HRO in court.