Fort Lauderdale unanimously voted for a human rights ordinance banning discrimination against the LGBT community in the areas employment, housing, public accommodations on Tuesday.
“This is something to celebrate. This is the first time we’ve seen such a comprehensive ordinance brought by a municipality in Florida. It’s fully comprehensive,” said Joe Saunders, Equality Florida’s Senior Political Director.“This is transformational.”
Not everyone agrees with that sentiment though.
Local LGBT rights activist, Michael Rajner, has been pushing for a similar ordinance in the city for at least a decade, but he decided to remain neutral on the measure.
“I don’t feel the adopted ordinance went far enough. Fort Lauderdale has a separate non-discrimination policy for city employees that is done by memo from the city manager and not affirmed by the city commission,” he said. “At minimum, that memo should come forward as a resolution for the city commission to vote and affirm. Nothing truly historic or monumental happened when this commission adopted this ordinance.”
Meanwhile city commissioners were elated the ordinance finally passed.
“I am so proud of our commission's unanimous vote against discrimination. This ordinance speaks to our values as a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive City,” said Commissioner Steve Glassman. While Commissioner Ben Sorenson added, “This is a great day for Fort Lauderdale.I am really excited at having the cause of equality and justice and fair treatment for all advanced in our city.”
Fort Lauderdale has a checkered past when it comes to LGBT rights.
“Fort Lauderdale has long been problematic and slow to embrace LGBT policy. They’ve only been getting things right in the last several years and some of it has been painstaking,” Rajner said. “Just getting this ordinance to move forward took more than a year.”
Currently two people on the commission are gay, Mayor Dean Trantalis and Glassman.
The last mayor of the city, Jack Seiler, refused to support same-sex marriage. He left office in 2018. Before Seiler, Mayor Jim Naugle was regularly at odds with the LGBT community.
But Sorenson said nowadays the city is fully on board with the LGBT community. In fact the lack of opposition surprised him.
“I did not receive one email, phone call, or text message critical of what we wanted to do. That says a lot,” he said. “We used to have a vocal opposition. But I did not experience any of that this time around and that says a lot about our community. Things have changed.”
Sorenson said the city should not ignore the silence on this issue and noted that City Hall was not packed in support or opposition to this ordinance.
“Not everyone was cheering at City Hall, but equally no one was at City Hall opposing this,” he said. “This is a new norm and it’s where we should be.”
The 44 page ordinance does three things according to Saunders.
1. Establishes a human rights ordinance in the city
Under this provision discrimination against the LGBT community as well as other protected classes like race is prohibited in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. Additionally someone who is discriminated against would be allowed to take their case directly to court, whereas under the Broward County ordinance a discrimination claim must be filed with the county first.
2. Adds domestic partnership protections
This provision does not create a domestic partnership registry, but it does recognize domestic partnerships from other states, counties, or municipalities. Saunders said it’s important to recognize those families because marriage may not be the right fit for every couple.
3. Establishes a city wide ban on conversion therapyfor minors
This provision bans the practice of so called conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy”on minors in the city.
While this may be the most comprehensive LGBT rights ordinance ever passed in a Florida city Sorenson said it’s important not to take this win for granted.
“We have to continue to push and ensure equality and fair treatment is guaranteed everyday in every town and community in the United States,” he said.