June July 2016
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Tales of Molestations in Jacksonville Public Bathrooms Rock Ordinance Hearing

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As Jacksonville, Fla., leaders debate whether to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's human rights ordinance, two adult survivors of sexual abuse have given shocking testimony in opposition to it.

They told the City Council that the proposal should be rejected to prevent what happened to them from happening to others. One man blamed LGBT people for his molestation in a public restroom as a child, Jacksonville TV Station WJAX reports.

“At the age of 10 to 12 years old, I was in restrooms, business, and I was sexually assaulted by the homosexual community,” the unidentified man said. WTLV also reported his claim. 

The man later admitted that for 20 years, he sexually assaulted children in St. Louis because he thought it was “acceptable.” The man told WJAX he did not assault any children in Jacksonville. 

Police told The Florida Times-Union the speaker identified himself to them as Roy Bay. A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman who was at the meeting said police will look into his statements, which included a claim that he was never caught or punished for his past actions. 

Another man who testified said anyone who has suffered discrimination can use existing laws. “What do you think we have courts and attorneys for? And laws?” said Jacksonville resident Rob Wolf, who opposes expanding the ordinance, according to the report by WTLV. “That’s what people should do, they should go the legal route.”

Wolf also testified before the council, claiming that as a teenager, he was assaulted by gay men.

What no one at the hearing or in media reports stated, however, is that the ordinance at hand would do nothing to increase the likelihood of sexual assault on minors. 

The website for the Jacksonville's Coalition for Equality, which supports the ordinance, addresses this issue as a "myth:" 

Myth: Inclusive HRO protection will allow male sexual predators to dress as women and lurk in women’s and girls’ bathrooms.

Reality: HRO legislation does not allow or encourage sexual predation or pedophilia. Both are criminal offenses, whether local inclusive HRO protection is in place or not. And officials in cities and states that have inclusive HRO protection, from Massachusetts to Hawaii, have reported no increase in those incidents.

The claims from these two Jacksonville men come as the northeastern Florida city tackles the same challenges faced by supporters and opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance late last year. HERO banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and 13 other characteristics in housing, employment, and public accommodations, but was repealed after it was put to a vote. Many claim HERO was pulled back after opponents convinced voters that because the ordinance would allow transgender residents to use the restrooms appropriate for their gender identity, it would have given male sexual predators legal access to women's public restrooms. This, despite the fact that there has been not one documented case of a sex offender pretending to be trans so that they could enter a restroom and assault someone.

The bill to expand Jacksonville’s ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity was introduced by Councilman Tommy Hazouri, according to the Times-Union. The council will discuss whether to vote on the bill or open up the issue to a vote by the general public in special meetings that will take place in February.

Watch a report from WTLV below.

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