A Florida appellate court has ruled that amendments made to Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination ordinance by adding sexual orientation and gender identity are “null and void.” The city says it will fight to defend the law.
In a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that the expansion of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violated state law because the entire ordinance was not completely written when it was passed, according to Action News Jax.
On behalf of Jacksonville residents and businesses, the conservative Christian legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel also argued that they had “suffered or will suffer injuries to their rights of privacy, religious conscience, and business interests under the (city) code as amended.”
“Its authors and sponsors illegally hid the effects of the ordinance through intentionally deceptive drafting and messaging,” the legal firm said in a statement.
The trial court twice dismissed Liberty Counsel’s case against the ordinance, saying the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to file the lawsuit because they were not injured yet or enough by the city’s “illegal act,” the organization said.
Jacksonville’s General Counsel called the appellate court’s decision “mindboggling” and “bizarre,” according to Florida Politics.
“It’s a hyper-technical ruling with some bizarre findings,” Jason Gabriel, the city’s head lawyer, was quoted as saying. “The city appropriately published (didn’t drop the ball in any way). Rules have been on the books for enforcement in their entirety since the law was passed in early 2017… For anyone to think the city dropped some part of this (and didn’t fix it for that matter) in the subsequent three years since its passage is mindboggling to me.”
Incoming City Council President Tommy Hazouri, also the legislation’s sponsor, said it was potentially possible to pass the law again.
Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel assistant vice president of Legal Affairs, said the appellate court’s decision “exposes the deception of the HRO authors and sponsors and rejects the city’s attempt to cover it up with its own deception in the form of clever procedural maneuvers in the city council.”
Legislation passed without openness and honesty cannot be good for anyone, Gannam added.
“The fair and honest people of Jacksonville should not be forced to participate in others’ celebrations of same-sex relationships under threat of fines or loss of their businesses, and Jacksonville’s women and young girls should feel safe from predatory men in their own restrooms and facilities,” he said.