Jacksonville is set to be the next major battleground for LGBT equality as the city council considers extending non-discrimination protections to include LGBT people. Here's what the media should know about the groups and activists leading the fight against LGBT equality in Jacksonville.
As the largest US city that has never enacted protections for LGBT people, Jacksonville is considering updating its Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) to include non-discrimination protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation in areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Anti-LGBT activists leading the fight against expanding Jacksonville's HRO falsely claim that adding LGBT protections would allow sexual predators to enter women's restrooms, a bogus talking point that was used to defeat similar protections in Houston in 2015.
Here's what the media should know about the loudest critics of expanding Jacksonville's HRO:
- Right-wing Christian legal group based in Orlando, FL
- Designated an anti-LGBT “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center
- Represented notorious Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis
- Has a history of misleading media outlets
Liberty Counsel has been active in opposing LGBT rights in Jacksonville since 2012, when Liberty Counsel attorney Roger Gannam helped organize opposition that led to the Jacksonville City Council rejecting LGBT non-discrimination protections. Gannam appeared at all three recent town hall meetings on the HRO, where he claimed that LGBT people don't need any further protections because they are already afforded the protection to marry. Gannam also authored a column in The Florida Times Union where he repeated the bogus claim that non-discrimination protections for transgender people will cause "male predators" to enter women's restrooms. The group has also opposed the HRO on their website, where founder Mat Staver assured his audience that “Liberty Counsel attorneys are actively supporting religious freedom in the Jacksonville area.”
Staver has previously called LGBT History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and civil war, and claimed non-discrimination protections for LGBT people will result in the "death of some individuals."
Pastor Kenneth Adkins
- Took photos of himself dressed up as a woman to oppose the Jacksonville HRO
- Pastor and owner of Issachar Media Group, based in St. Simmons Island, GA
- Garnered local media attention with his vocal antics against the expanded HRO
Pastor Kenneth Adkins leads a group of black pastors who oppose the expanded HRO and are calling for a referendum on the measure. In December, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry selected Adkins as one of six panelists chosen for a “community conversation” about HRO. Adkins has also vocally opposed the HRO expansion on Twitter with graphic and inflammatory images:
In other tweets, Adkins has said that the definition of the expanded HRO is “Giving Civil Rights to men who engage in Anal Sex with each other,” called City Council Member Tommy Hazouri the "anti-Christ" for supporting the HRO, and photoshopped Hazouri's face onto pornographic images:
Hazouri has said he is considering taking legal action against Adkins for the graphic images.
Florida Family Policy Council
- Florida chapter of national anti-gay group Focus on the Family
- Headed by anti-gay activist John Stemberger
- Urges gay people to seek help in leaving the "gay lifestyle"
Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) has been opposing LGBT equality in Florida since 2004. FFPC president John Stemberger actively opposed expanding the Jacksonville HRO in 2012, including by testifying against it before the city council. FFPC has already started a petition against the HRO, and the group's action arm (Florida Family Action) has built a website called "Defend Jax Families" to oppose the HRO. The website has a page titled "No Men In Women's Bathrooms" that calls transgender women “gender-confused men” and features the same graphics used by an anti-LGBT group that opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
Stemberger has previously called same-sex parents "objectively inferior" to married heterosexual parents, predicted that accepting gay Scouts would "literally destroy" the Boy Scouts, and declared that public policy should be guided by "scripture." In 2013, he launched an anti-gay alternative to the Boy Scouts due to his fear that accepting gay Scouts would lead to sexual abuse.