The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) drafted a Human Rights Ordinance and brought the support for the adoption of it to a City of Pensacola workshop. State Rep. Mike Hill was present to voice his opposition to the ordinance in behalf of his constituents. A crowd of several hundred filled the second floor lobby leading to the conference room where the city council held their Committee Meeting of the Whole and the Community Redevelopment Agency meeting. The conference room was also filled with a standing-room only crowd. Nevertheless, the majority of the crowd remained for the Human Rights Ordinance workshop which was moved from the second floor to the Pensacola City Council Chambers on the first floor.
The ordinance was drafted by ACLU Attorney Benjamin Stevenson. The ACLU describes it as being based off of an ordinance in Volusia County. Sara Latshaw voiced her advocacy for the ordinance stating that the passage of the law would be positive for the city’s growth and development. The president of the University of West Florida (UWF) student body, Daniel McBurney, provided input in support of the ordinance. His comments reflected unanimous support from the UWF Student Government Association (SGA) Senate.
The result of the ordinance’s adoption by City Council would block discrimination in housing and being denied entrance to public facilities based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or national origin. Additionally, the new ordinance would make it illegal for employers not to hire a person based upon those same traits. Those persons that allege discrimination will be able to pursue legal action.
The majority of the audience spoke in favor of the ordinance’s passage and supporters were wearing red in support of the law’s adoption. Most notably, State Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola Beach) made it very clear concerning his opposition to the ordinance. Hill based his opposition on his belief that the voters and resident of his district would oppose the ordinance. Nevertheless, Sara Latshaw stated, “It makes sense for the city to put a human rights ordinance on the books that clearly states that we value all of our citizens no matter who they are and who they love.” There are similar ordinances in place in Orange and Leon Counties according to Latshaw.
Since the Pensacola City Council was meeting under procedures of a workshop they could not decide to take official action to reject or pass the ordinance, however, there was support among the council members as several spoke in favor. Latshaw said the ACLU will be working to get the ordinance back before the council at one of their regular meetings as quickly as possible.