July 6, 2020
In The Public Interest

Historic Decisions

June 15th launched a new  and hope-filled week in Jacksonville as two astonishing actions — one federal and one local — took effect that significantly expand civil rights to LGBTQ people in our country and in our community.

In an historic decision released yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ persons from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and the workplace. In a 6 – 3 ruling written by Justice Neil Gorsuch (Justices Alito, Kavanaugh and Thomas dissenting), the Court recognized that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity equates to discrimination on the basis of sex which Title VII forbids. Gorsuch stated, “Discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex; the first cannot happen without the second.” 

At home, we are pleased to note that, in a remarkable turnaround, Mayor Lenny Curry signed into law a bill passed last week by City Council which expands protections offered by Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to LGBTQ persons. In 2017, the Mayor refused to take a position allowing a similar bill to become law without his signature. 

This spring, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal in a surprise ruling overturned the 2017 legislation on the basis of a technicality (see Jaxlookout, HRO Redux). Through a series of meetings, City Council reviewed a new HRO and debated whether the city has been well-served or hurt by expanding legal protections to LGBTQ persons.  Ultimately, LGBTQ protections were affirmed in what is referred to as “the repair bill” by 15-4 (Council Members Danny Becton, Al Ferraro, Sam Newby and Randy White voting against). 

You can read the Supreme Court opinion and the local legislation through these links:

We know that many JaxLookout readers helped to move this issue forward locally by reaching out to their City Council representatives and attending numerous virtual Council and committee meetings. 

I am grateful for your engagement, willingness and passion to ensure that Jacksonville comes closer to fulfilling its promise to be a bold, new and inclusive city for all of its people. The work is not finished, but we can celebrate these two profound victories today even as we prepare to move the needle forward again tomorrow.

Written by
Robert Arleigh White

Robert Arleigh White has many years of experience managing nonprofit arts organizations in North Florida where he has also been active in promoting a host of arts related initiatives. In recognition of over 20 years of successful legislative and community advocacy, the City of Jacksonville proclaimed August 12 as “Robert Arleigh White Day,” and Jacksonville’s City Council similarly authorized a resolution in his honor. Previously, Mr. White served as the executive and artistic director for Theatre Jacksonville where he led the organization from near fiscal insolvency to become one of the State of Florida’s most successful artistic venues. While there, he also was directly responsible for the artistic direction of fifty plays and worked to produce dozens more. Currently, Bob is the principal for Robert Arleigh White + Associates where he consults with nonprofits on development, infrastructure and organizational storytelling.

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Written by Robert Arleigh White

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