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Activists Fight
to Keep Nondiscrimination Ordinances in Gainesville, Fla.

Activists Fight
to Keep Nondiscrimination Ordinances in Gainesville, Fla.

For 10 years Gainesville, Fla. has provided antidiscrimination protections for gay people in housing, employment, credit, and public accommodation. The northern Florida city -- and home to the University of Florida -- added gender identity to those protections in January of this year. Now, lobbyists have gathered enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot that would strip those rights away -- for all LGBT people, and possibly veterans and union members as well.

For 10 years Gainesville, Fla. has provided antidiscrimination protections for gay people in housing, employment, credit, and public accommodation. The northern Florida city -- and home to the University of Florida -- added gender identity to those protections in January of this year. Now lobbyists have gathered enough petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot that would strip those rights away -- for all LGBT people, and possibly veterans and union members as well.

The Citizens for Good Public Policy wants to change the Gainesville charter to prevent the city from adding or enforcing any civil rights protections not in specific statutes of the Florida Civil Rights Act. Not surprisingly, protections for LGBT people are not part of the act. During the summer Citizens for Good Public Policy gathered over 6,000 signatures to get the issue on the ballot for a March 2009 city election.

City attorneys are now warning voters of the far-reaching effects of the proposal. In addition to taking away protections from gay and trans people, veterans, union members, and other groups could be discriminated against since they are not specifically protected by the Florida Civil Rights Act. The proposed charter change would not only take away protections from those groups but make it impossible to add them to Gainesville's list of protected classes. According to Terry Fleming of the group Equality Is Gainesville's Business, federal benefits could be jeopardized if this charter amendment passes.

Fleming also said the signatures were gathered by the virulently homophobic Citizens for Good Public Policy through television advertising that implied trans protections would allow men to use women's restrooms. A commercial showed a man following a little girl into a bathroom.

Gainesville city commissioner Craig Lowe said in a release, "Gainesville has carefully cultivated an inclusive environment where every person can contribute and enjoy all we have to offer as a community. This charter amendment would undo all of that." (Neal Broverman, The Advocate)

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