Jacksonville’s contentious and controversial “human rights” ordinance was dealt a blow at the hands of Florida’s First District Court of Appeals this week.
Twice barred by a local circuit judge who said the plaintiffs lacked standing, lawyers for Liberty Counsel got those actions reversed and the case was sent back to the Circuit Court to be heard on the merits.
But even more troublesome for those who pushed the ordinance through in 2017, the court indicated that the local law is on shaky grounds.
When it passed the City Council, the law was not even written. In effect, the council left it up to the city’s lawyers to fill in the blanks by writing the text of the ordinance.
This unprecedented move was not explained.
The city attempted to get the case dismissed at trial by claiming any defect was cured when the city enacted a revision of the entire ordinance code soon after the lawsuit was filed. The appellate court rejected that argument.
By adopting a law that did not contain the full text, the council deprived the public due process, the court said.
In its 3-0 ruling, the court said, “The only way to ensure clear, accurate, understandable, and uniform notice of proposed changes to a law or an ordinance is to put them in writing before enacting or adopting them—in full text, in context, complete as if for immediate enforcement.”
If it were to be invalidated by the courts, the law would have to go before the council again if proponents want it to remain in effect.
It purports to give special protections to homosexuals and bisexuals.
The members who voted for it previously and remain on the council are: Republicans Scott Wilson and Aaron Bowman, and Democrats Joyce Morgan, Garrett Dennis, Reggie Gaffney and Tommy Hazouri.
Of interest is the fact that Hazouri, who sponsored the original bill, is expected to be the next council president, which means he would be in a powerful position to ram it through again if an adverse ruling is rendered before his term ends.
Roger Gannam, a lawyer for Liberty Counsel said of the appellate court’s ruling, “This 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.”
“A city ordinance that cannot be passed openly and honestly is good for no one. 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. We are thankful that the appellate court corrected the trial court’s errors.”
The bill was lampooned as one that would allow men to enter women’s restrooms and also would force people to act without regard for their religious beliefs.
The bill defined gender identity as being demonstrated “by a person’s consistent and uniform assertion of a particular gender identity, appearance or expression, or by any other evidence that a person’s gender identity is sincerely held…”
That appears to reflect the current popular notion among liberals that a person can imagine himself to be any gender he wishes.
In other parts of America, such notions and laws are being used to attack people of faith.
Supporters of the local ordinance presented evidence that discrimination was being shown, creating a need for such a law, but opponents claimed the evidence merely was anecdotal.
Plaintiffs in the case are John Parsons, Liberty Ambulance Service, Inc., Robert Assaf, Diamond D Ranch, Inc., and Michael Griffin.
“Liberty Counsel is a Christian ministry that proclaims, advocates, supports, advances, and defends the good news that God in the person of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept him as Lord and Savior,” the organization says on its Web site.