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Jacksonville LGBT Rights Bill to Be Withdrawn

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The council member behind the measure says it's clear the city's not ready, but he will bring it up again later.

The Jacksonville, Fla., City Council member who had proposed an LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance is withdrawing the measure.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri's action, which he announced Saturday, effectively ends efforts to expand the city's human rights ordinance for now, The Florida Times-Union reports. His move comes after a series of public hearings that saw impassioned debate between supporters and opponents of the legislation.

After the hearings, it's apparent that "the City Council and many citizens of Jacksonville still have sincere questions and are not ready to move forward on this issue," Hazouri said in a written statement, according to the Times-Union. He will make the withdrawal request Thursday, he said, adding, "Be assured, this bill and this issue is coming back."

Supporters of the bill expressed disappointment. "It's pretty shocking, honestly, to see the bill is being withdrawn," Jimmy Midyette, legislative director for the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, told the newspaper. "The coalition is going to keep working on getting it passed."

Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida, is also one of the biggest cities in the nation without an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law, the Times-Union notes. A similar effort to expand the ordinance failed in 2012. Hazouri's bill had the support of many business leaders and some clergy members, but other clergy spoke out against it, and Mayor Lenny Curry was not enthusiastic about it.

And at the hearings, some men came forward to say they'd been molested in public restrooms, which stoked fears that an LGBT-inclusive ordinance would enable such predatory behavior -- an assertion that has been widely debunked.

Councilman Bill Guilford had introduced a competing measure calling for a voter referendum on adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the human rights ordinance. With Hazouri withdrawing his bill, Guilford said he will withdraw his as well, the Times-Union reports.

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