Gainesville vote on repealing protection for LGBT residents draws opposition listen03/03/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Later this month, citizens in Gainesville go to the polls to vote on whether to remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people in that northern Florida city.
The initiative is being sponsored by the group Citizens for Good Public Policy. It was organized after the Gainesville City Commission approved a revision to the cityâ€™s discrimination ordinance adding â€œgender identityâ€ to the list of protected classes prohibiting discrimination in employment, public accommodation, housing and credit. The group has called the gender identity provision an example of â€œgovernment gone wild.â€
Craig Lowe, a Gainesville City Commissioner, says the proposed ordinance would actually go beyond deleting gender identity from the class of protected individuals.
Organizers of the campaign against the ballot measure â€“ â€œEquality is Gainesvilleâ€™s Businessâ€ - say they will begin airing television ads in Gainesville beginning Wednesday, 13 days before voters will go to the polls.
Howard Simon, executive director with the ACLU of Florida, said it was unfair of critics to say that the Gainesville vote has been taken over by outside groups. He contends that there are more than 800 ACLU members in Gainesville and a staff member with the state group to defeating the measure. And he said the Thomas Moore Law Center has boasted that it is working with certain groups in Florida to put together this referendum.
Simon says that the last time the ACLU did battle with the Thomas Moore Law Center was in federal court in Dover, PA. Simon says the case at its heart is not that complicated.
The campaign in Gainesville against the proposed ordinance has support among progressive leaders like Dr. Michael Bowie, president of the Alachua County branch of the NAACP.
â€œGender identityâ€ is defined as â€œan inner sense of being a specific gender, or the expression of a gender identity by verbal statement, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual with or without regard to the individualâ€™s designated sex at birth.â€
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force notes 108 cities and counties nationwide have similar transgender protections.
Adrian Kimmel is executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. The group also opposes the ordinance.
The group behind the ordinance, Citizens for Good Policy, did not return our call for comment.
To learn more about their campaign effort go to citizensforgoodpolicy.org, or for the campaign against it, go to Equalitygainesville.com.