Leon County Human Rights Ordinance Passes

Updated 6:37 p.m. 5/12 by: Lanetra Bennett

After five long hours of debate among a standing-room only public hearing crowd, Leon County Commissioners passed the Human Rights Ordinance Tuesday night.

This issue remains the hot topic the next day.

Reverend Mark Byrd says his congregation at Gentle Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church is made up of predominantly gay, lesbian, and transgender members who have experienced discrimination.

Rev. Byrd appreciates the dozens of area resident who spoke out at Tuesday night's public hearing on Leon County's Human Rights Ordinance.

After listening to speakers for and against it, commissioners passed the ordinance.

Rev. Byrd said, "To put us in a better position, overall as a county, where folks don't have to worry about losing their jobs or having housing to be able to provide for themselves an their families, that's a very, very good thing."

The ordinance provides protection for residents regardless of their sexual orientation when it comes to housing, public accommodations, and employment.

The employment aspect is where Pastor Randy Ray has concerns.

Pastor Ray said, "There are opinions about the gay and lesbian and transgender community that can be counter-productive to businesses. Let's just say day cares. I'm not saying that's an issue. But, I'm saying parents of young children could have an issue with that. Good, bad, or indifferent that's just the reality of it."

Some have argued that sexual orientation should not be included as a civil right.

Leon County resident Carolee Gilmore said, "I do believe that everybody that's born has rights. That's just as simple as it is."

Pastor Ray says he was hoping the commission would put the employment aspect of the ordinance back on the table, because he says the Human Rights ruling as is, could lead to frivolous litigation against local business owners.

Supporters say the ordinance will be good for everyone.

Commissioners Jane Sauls and Brian Desloge were the only two in opposition.

Reporter: Heather Biance

It's been the talk of the town and Tuesday night the Leon County human rights ordinance brought hundreds of folks out on both sides of the issue.

103 speakers took the stand Tuesday night with the last one finishing around 10:45p.m.

It was standing room only in the Leon County Commission chambers, with the crowds overflowing into small waiting rooms and empty courtrooms downstairs.

One by one, both supporters and those against the Human Rights ordinance took their stand at the podium making sure commissioners heard them loud and very clear before handing down their vote.

"To say sexual orientation and identity is a protected class is just not right," said a Tallahassee Resident.

Supporters say it isn't about special rights, it's about making it an even playing field for everyone, regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation.

"I don't' want anything different or anything special, I just want the same stuff," says a Tallahassee resident.

Some argued from scripture, others say sexual orientation is not a choice igniting a response from those of the LGBT community.

"Well religion is also a lifestyle choice. Since it is protected, whether you believe we were born gay or not, we should also be included in the ordinance," says Tallahassee resident Amanda James.

The ordinance has passed 5 to 2.

Commissioner Sauls and Desloge were the only two in opposition.

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