The failure to pass the HRO in 2012 was a major issue in the recent mayoral elections, with many people crediting Alvin Brown's razor thin loss directly to his failure to support the legislation. During January, the question of whether or not Jacksonville would remain the sole large city in Florida not to pass a Human Rights Ordinance heated up substantially.....
Which is contrary to the stated wishes of the electorate in the last election, according to many observers of local politics.
The failure to pass an HRO wasn't just an issue in the Mayoral Race, it also made a major mark on the elections for City Council.
Demonbuster Kim Daniels, one of the most outspoken (and loony) voices on the Council (at one point she tried to conflate an HRO with necrophilia during an open Council meeting) lost her at-large-seat handily to the much more progressive Anna Brosche. Similarly, Robin Lumb's opposition (followed by his public commendation by the anti HRO church community) ---despite coming from one of the largest LGBT districts in the city ----also figured heavily into his failure to run for re election in his own at-large-district.
In the same election, Tommy Hazouri (also running for an at-large-seat) managed to get more votes than any other candidate for Council in the city in his race against arch-evangelical and HRO foe, Geoff Youngblood, and one of the dominant issues was LGBT rights.
The only district race pitting a progressive candidate against a conservative evangelical in which the conservative evangelical won was a district seat: Al Ferraro vs Lisa King--and passage of the HRO was simply not an issue in that campaign.
But nowhere was the issue more pronounced than in the Mayoral Campaign. Alvin Brown's campaign was gut punched by LGBT and Republican criticism of his non support of the HRO. Despite the fact that the Mayor cannot make laws and the obstructionist Council never passed an ordinance. Merely the fact that he did not speak out in public in favor of equality was the petard on which his campaign was hoisted. The inherent irony of blaming him for not passing a law which he was constitutionally unable to create was compounded by the fact that the primary criticism against Brown came from his Republican opponent, Bill Bishop. Bishop, naturally, had been the Council President during the failure of the HRO and as the presiding officer, bore direct responsibility for the outcome of that body's handling of the issue.
This did not stop Curry supporters from flooding social media, campaign events and public debates with criticism of the authentically homophobic Mayor Brown. Bolstered by active negative campaigning by HRO activists like Jimmy Midyette and Keri Kidder, the public perception became increasingly hostile to Alvin Brown. Bishop and Midyette ended up reversing themselves and endorsing the former (still homophobic) mayor, but the damage had already been done. The direct result of the niche campaigning was his historic loss to Lenny Curry.
Considering, that non passage of the legislation had been such a pervasive campaign issue, it seemed a simple and uncontroversial path to passage of the ordinance. Unsurprisingly, legislation was quickly reintroduced after the new Council was seated and the process was initiated to complete what many considered a long overdue leftover issue from the Brown years.
But things did not settle down, nor did they become less sensational.
In fact, events have became even more ludicrous over the last few months----largely through the efforts of Mayor Curry, who personally invited some of the country's most provocative and clownish players on the issue of gay rights into our local process of considering the HRO. Opening the door, so to speak, to some of the most notorious snake oil salesmen available to cloud and complicate what should have been a clearcut, non controversial issue.
Despite the Mayor's constitutional role in administering (not creating) the laws passed by Council, the Mayor announced a program of 'community hearings' to decide how he would weigh in on the proposed legislation.
It should have been clear from the beginning that the Mayor was--at the most favorable--unserious.
The community hearings took the format of panel discussions in public forums, in which the public was invited to participate in Q&A.
The first evidence of another agenda being enacted became evident in his choice of panelists. Jacksonville is a major city in the United States, the 13th largest in fact. In our city limits there are over 800k people and in our metro area more than a million. Despite having access to more than a million residents or adjacent citizens to choose from, the mayor curiously asked several out of state players to participate as his representatives in the discussion.
Roger Gannam and his client, Kim Davis
Enter Roger Gannam
At first blush, the most controversial of these was Roger Gannam, a fringe movement attorney attached to the Liberty Counsel (labelled an official hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) was...odd. Gannam was fresh from gaining infamy for his involvement in the Kim Davis case in Kentucky, during which (incredibly) his group advised Ms. Davis to ignore and disobey rulings from both the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Gannam's (expensive) legal advice to Ms. Davis to basically ignore the rule of law, making the rather pedestrian Clerk of a County Court into one of the nation's most notorious scofflaw--and his advice was predictably disastrous. Ms. Davis was jailed, and eventually released under strict orders to cease and desist in her campaign to nullify the laws of the United States based on legal advice from Gannam's Liberty Counsel. Gannam left Kim Davis' side at Curry's invitation. Insiders maintain that Gannam's close relationship with former Councilman Robin Lumb is why Mayor Curry picked him.
What made the odd appointment of Mr. Gannam (who has family ties to Jacksonville) even more questionable was the timing of the appointment in connection with the overturning of Houston's HRO, November 3rd of last year. Consider how the webpage of the Florida Family Council's legislative webpage frames the Jacksonville HRO as part of their national effort to fight against the LGBT community:
On the site's official webpage, they tie their attention (and inevitably, their resources) to Jacksonville immediately after their successful campaign in Houston (Florida's group is itself an affiliate of Focus on the Family), more importantly they link to a related New York Times article naming Gannam as their player on the ground here in Jacksonville.
If Christian conservatives are not as well organized here as they were in Houston, they soon would be, Mr. Gannam said in an interview. He helped lead the opposition that defeated a similar effort in Jacksonville in 2012, and is now working with a coalition of pastors and conservative groups, including the Florida Family Policy Council, a statewide group affiliated with Focus on the Family.
Gannam was invited by Mayor Curry as a panelist on two of the three community discussions. The question as to why the Mayor would appoint an out of town, highly controversial, radical activist in the national anti LGBT community was asked repeatedly by Jacksonville media, including Florida Politics, Folioweekly and CityXXtra magazine. When he was appointed to a second panel, LGBT activists like Karrissa Wade began to cry foul.
Bishop Elect, Ken Adkins
All but unnoticed at the time, however, Curry appointed an even more strident anti LGBT panelist: a highly questionable misadventuring 'Bishop Elect' from Brunswick Georgia, Kenneth Adkins. Also not part of the Jacksonville community, Adkins clownish and highly offensive behavior would end up causing a scandal when he posted photos online of Councilman Tommy Hazouri doctored into gay porn and of him peeking over the top of bathroom stalls at very young boys using the bathroom. Subsequent digging into Adkins' background made many question the Mayor's judgement in having appointed him in the first place. For a more detailed account of the shenanigans, fraudsterism and hijinks, click here:
The Panels, predictably, were circuses, and basically served to provide a platform for the talking points of the two hate groups (Liberty Council and Focus on the Family) represented by Roger Gannam.
City Councilman Bill Gulliford
Competing HRO Bills Introduced
The moment they were over, Bill Gulliford filed legislation to circumvent the council from having to pass an HRO, setting instead for a public referendum. Councilman Tommy Hazouri immediately filed a counter bill to expand the HRO to include gender identity and be taken up by the Council rather than go to referendum.
Which presented a bit of a quandary.
On January 6, City Council President Greg Anderson released his plan to deal with the competing HRO bills that had been filed. He formed a "Committee of the Whole", which would consist of three special meetings in which all 19 council members are expected to participate. These special meetings were scheduled for February 4, February 18, and March 3rd. This seemed to be satisfactory to all sides
However things went far afield of satisfactory during the next regular Council Meeting as both sides of the HRO showed up in numbers to show support for their cause. During an extraordinary moment, an employee of Evangel Temple, the home church of Pastor Gary Wiggins (one of the primary organizers of the anti HRO effort) stood up for a galvanizing five minutes, during which he claimed to have been a child predator who had committed multiple instances of Child Molestation in bathrooms. The church employee, Roy Bay, explained that allowing transgendered people to use the bathrooms of their choice would enable and normalize child molesters like himself. "And I was never caught', he electrifyingly informed the crowd.
See for yourself in the video below:
Roy Bay's Testimony before City Council.
The Roy Bay Child Molestation claims followed so closely by the politics of posting bizarre child based semi pornographic images by Pastor Adkins were shocking and galvanizing to the community. A hunt for possible victims was initiated, Bay left town, Adkins was disgraced in local politics. But the narrative which tried to recast the issue as an ordinance concerning mostly the bathroom had commenced.
The city was glued to the ensuing controversy for the next few weeks, with pastors threatening to demand that the HRO be put up for approval at referendum.
In a Friday Afternoon news dump, on January 29th, with six days before the first Council Meeting was supposed to convene, Mayor Curry decided to make his move. He issued a statement that the city would apply the new Federal Guidelines in its hiring practices (a move which includes all city approved vendors) requiring anyone who works for the city to have non discrimination policies in place. He ended the statement with his opinion that passing an HRO wouldn't be 'prudent', and announced his intention instead to work on Pension Reform.
NEXT: HOW THE NEWS LANDED WITH EVANGELICALS AND THE ARRIVAL OF THE NATIONAL ANTI LGBT INDUSTRY