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Flagler County Supportive of Broadening Discrimination Protection in Housing for LGBT

| March 23, 2016

barbara revels

Barbara Revels, who chairs the county commission, is proposing an amendment to a housing ordinance to extend non-discrimination protection to individuals for sexual orientation. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County may join just a handful of local governments that expressly adds sexual orientation to non-discrimination protections in housing.


County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Revels proposed the amendment to the county’s housing ordinance at the end of a meeting Monday, testing her colleagues’ positions on the issue. None disagreed.

“We have the protected class of people that you always have in discrimination where it’s race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, familial status, ancestry or national origin,” Revels said, “and I would like consideration to add to that, and personal gender identity or sexual orientation, that you cannot discriminate based on any of those.”

But the amendment would apply only to the ordinance that addresses the sale of rental of housing. It would not extend to protections of transgender people in, for example, the use of public facilities, nor would it apply to discrimination in the workplace, as has usually been the case when other local governments or state legislatures have taken on such protections. But Revels left the door open for broader applications.

“This is just the one section on housing, so there might be other areas,” she said, even as she conceded that there may be issues in other areas of county regulations. Revels, who was attending a conference in Washington Wednesday, wrote in an email that she “suggested that each department head look at their guiding ordinances or policies to see where this language needs to be inserted into the list of protective classes.” Any such changes would have to go through the ordinance-amendment process, which would include two public hearings.

Revels said she was responding to a suggestion from Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, a leader in Flagler County Democratic politics and civil rights issues. (Disclosure: Shapiro chairs the FlaglerLive Board of Directors.)

“We’ll take what we can get but we’ll continue to push,” Shapiro said Wednesday. “If we have such a reasonable, open and progressive minded county commission, that’s great, we’ll go for it all.”

Merrill Shapiro. (© FlaglerLive)

Merrill Shapiro. (© FlaglerLive)

The idea, he said, emerged from the Flagler County Democratic Progressive Caucus, with Volusia’s ordinance serving as a model. “Once we have a foot in the door, we’ll move on from there,” with Palm Coast possibly next, though Shapiro expects that if the county amends its ordinance, the cities would then fall in line. “It’s just a matter of expanding that protection. We’re really asking for the addition of just a few words to a law that’s well in place and widely accepted.”

“That’s kind of the law of the land anyway,” Commissioner Frank Meeker said of Revels’s proposal.

That was a rosier statement than an accurate one. Some local governments have adopted such protections, among them Broward, Volusia and Miami-Dade counties (Volusia adopted its ordinance in 2011), others have rejected them, as has the state Legislature. Most have not.

Some Florida senators in the last session tried to pass a bill that would update the state’s Civil Rights Act of 1992 by adding a line that would expand classes protected against discrimination to include bar discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace, public housing and other public accommodations. The bill (SB 120), filed by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, would have largely done what Revels is aiming to do in Flagler County. It failed.

The reason: some senators refused to include protection for transgender people in public bathrooms, raising fears—unfounded by all accounts, and generally reflective of a misunderstanding or mischaracterization of the issue—that, say, a man would declare himself a woman and opt to use a women’s bathroom to ogle other women.

“Every reasonable citizen in the state of Florida looks at our legislature and says, what’s the matter with these people? They don’t behave like grownups, they’re so petty,” Shapiro said. “That’s such an excuse to just derail this legislation.”

In 2015, a Senate bill that would have forbidden local governments from passing such protections failed to get a floor vote.

In February, the Palm Bay City Council rejected a proposed human rights ordinance that would have ensured freedom “from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on age, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, familial status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.” Since last year the Jacksonville City Council was grappling with a similar ordinance until its sponsor, Tommy Hazouri, reluctantly withdrew it in the face of mounting opposition, especially from clergy. “Today,” he said in a statement in mid-February, “we are stuck in the past, frozen in time, when it comes to human rights.” But, he added, “Be assured, this bill and this issue is coming back.”

Preemptive bills have passed other state legislative bodies, the latest on Wednesday (March 23), when the North Carolina House of Representatives by a wide margin (83-25) voted to outlaw all local governments’ LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and ban transgender people from public bathrooms.

In February, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill similar to North Carolina’s, but Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, vetoed the bill, deferring instead to local governments. “If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them,” Daugaard wrote in his veto message. “Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.”

Last November, voters in a referendum rejected a similar anti-discrimination initiative in Houston. There is no sign that attempts to pass similar bans on anti-discrimination measures will abate.

Locally, Shapiro said, the non-discrimination measure would be a boon to the county’s continued focus on economic development. “Businesses can come here and hire the best people,” he said, “and the best people can come here because they know they won’t be discriminated over what we regard as irrelevant factors.”

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22 Responses for “Flagler County Supportive of Broadening Discrimination Protection in Housing for LGBT”

  1. steve miller says:

    WHATEVER…

  2. Algernon says:

    Let’s hope the Florida legislature doesn’t play the same games that the North Carolina legislature just did – prohibiting local governments from doing what’s proposed here.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/north-carolina-lgbt-discrimination_us_56f2b7dbe4b0c3ef5217676c

    Well done Barbara Revels.

  3. I'm in says:

    I am a man. Are you so naive to think that I wouldn’t use a woman’s bathroom if I could? They are cleaner and smell better. Plus the scenery is better. Please pass this law so my “gender identity” can change to suit my need to check out hot women.

  4. Layla says:

    Look, folks….if this is a priority to this commissioner, I’d say she needs to be voted out of office. On the list of things NEEDED here, this one is on the bottom.

    HOW ABOUT JOBS?

  5. GT says:

    Hey Barbara, please don’t tell me I don’t have a say in who i rent to if I don’t like the look of someone i’m not renting to them period. The P section is a prime example of a rental neighborhood gone bed!

  6. blondee says:

    What next? Will we need to cite specifically no discrimination again redheads?

  7. scoff the cuff says:

    ” … fall in line.” We, the government, said so.
    Does everyone who has a difference need a law, and enforcement body ?
    How about all citizens have equal protection under law? Novel idea, huh.

  8. Rental rule? says:

    I came to like Barbra Revels a lot after being at a public meeting. But this is just a political statement. These laws are meaningless in that a landlord, employer, etc can discriminate but are not so stupid as to give the reason of sex, age, race, etc. for picking one applicant out of many.

  9. Billy says:

    So I can now rent my yard out to a goat ? No discrimination MEANS NO DISCRIMINATION !!!

  10. tom says:

    RESIGN, REVELS. We don’t want your idea of wht our community should become.. Move to San Francisco

  11. Sherry says:

    Well Ms Revels. . . you most certainly brought out the “bigoted haters” with this one. I admire you for being against all discrimination and encourage you to keep up the good work! Please don’t let the loud prejudice Trump lovers discourage your good work.

    Actually, if our community could possibly be more like wonderful San Francisco. . . one of the most beautiful and popular cities in the world. . . perhaps we could encourage a more positive, higher civilization, and better paying jobs in our area.

    But, with the kind of comments shown above, what mentally healthy person would want to move into this community, much less open a business here?

  12. Layla says:

    Trump lovers, Sherry? Really?

    Sherry, Have you been to San Francisco recently? If not, I’d like to suggest that you plan a visit there…..it is now a sanctuary city, as you know, with people peeing everywhere all over the sidewalks and streets. On a warm day, it smells.

    Seriously, Sherry?

  13. Sherry says:

    For those of you who do NOT know San Francisco. . . but who think they know everything. . . I personally lived very near there in Marin county near Sausalito for 20 years! I worked and socialized in that absolutely gorgeous city of “diverse”, “highly educated”, “open minded”, “forward thinking”, “sophisticated” people every day. I visit our wonderful friends there every year. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to “really” spend time enjoying one of the most incredible cities in the world should count their lucky stars!

    San Francisco is consistently ranked within the top 5 of luxury destinations to visit in the entire USA! For example US News says:

    Why go: San Francisco appeals to nature-seekers, foodies and edgy globe-trotters with its eclectic neighborhoods, flourishing arts scene and picturesque natural landscape. It’s more mellow than Los Angeles, but the home of the Golden Gate Bridge still has plenty of cosmopolitan charms.

    A jumbled collage of colorful neighborhoods and beautiful views, San Francisco draws those free-spirited types who have an eye for edgy art, a taste for imaginative cuisine and a zeal for adventure. It’s really not surprising that songwriter Tony Bennett left his heart here:

    The city boasts jaw-dropping sights, world-class cuisine, cozy cafes and plenty of booming nightlife venues — there’s no shortage of ways to stay busy here. Spend an hour or two sunning yourself alongside sea lions on the bay, admiring the views of the city from Twin Peaks, or strolling along the Marina. And for the quintessential San Franciscan experience, enjoy a ride on a cable car.

    Often described as Los Angeles’ more refined northern cousin, cool and compact San Francisco takes the big-city buzz exuded by its southern counterpart and melds it with a sense of small-town charm. Here, you’ll discover a mish-mash of culture flourishing throughout San Francisco’s many vibrant quarters. Follow the crowds to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (which offers spectacular views of Alcatraz) before heading along the bay to the Presidio for a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. But don’t forget to save time for the Mission district, The Haight and The Castro for exposure to all of the different varieties of the San Francisco lifestyle.

    So Layla. . . my advice to you is to get out there and open your mind and eyes to the beauty and diversity of the “real” world and the “real” humanity instead of letting FOX or Rush or the Koch Brothers or whoever do all your thinking for you. Do a little research and think about why it’s so very expensive to live in that area, and why so many great universities thrive there, and why the center of the technical universe, “Silicon Valley” is so successful there. It certainly is not because “those” people are peeing all over the place and spoiling everything.

    Or, you can continue to stay in your on little close minded, fear filled life. . . but be sure to keep your gun by your side. . . because those black and brown people are coming for you. . . any moment now.

  14. Sherry says:

    Oh Yeah. . . and San Francisco is also ranked as one of the top places for job growth, education and doing business world wide. . . this from Forbes:

    San Francisco, CA
    San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division

    At a Glance

    Metro Population: 1,613,400
    Major Industries: Tourism, Technology, Financial services
    Gross Metro Product: $176.7 B
    Median Household Income: $86,394
    Median Home Price: $858,300
    Unemployment: 3.5%
    Job Growth (2014): 4.6%
    Cost of Living: 50.5% above nat’l avg
    College Attainment: 49.9%
    Net Migration (2014): 2,690
    Forbes Lists

    #32 Best Places for Business and Careers
    #193 in Cost of Doing Business
    #5 in Job Growth
    #5 in Education

    Profile

    San Francisco is a popular international tourist destination, and the industry itself has become the backbone of the San Francisco economy. The city is renowned for a number of its unique characteristics like its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills and eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture. Its notable landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Chinatown are just a few of its recognizable features.

    The city is also a principal banking and finance center, and the home to more than 30 international financial institutions, helping to make San Francisco rank eighteenth in the world’s top producing cities and fifteenth place in the top twenty global financial centers.

    The city is home to the University of California, San Francisco, which is entirely dedicated to graduate education in health and bio-medical sciences as well as the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco State University, the City College of San Francisco and the University of San Francisco.

  15. Layla says:

    Sherry, when was the last time you were in San Francisco? Seriously….

  16. Sherry says:

    Layla, like I already said above. . . I go to San Francisco every year.

    Each of us sees differently. . . I also travel extensively (for months at a time) to other countries all over Europe and South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, etc. So, I have created, through very hard work, the opportunity to have a very first hand knowledge of the world, it’s many races and religions and it’s many cultures. I have good friends in several different countries who are very concerned about the “ridiculous and dangerous reality show” playing out on our political stage.

    Layla, I’m not sure exactly what point you are trying to make here, but you’ll never ever convince me that discriminating against/denigrating other human beings is anything other than despicable.

    Over and out for now. . . I’ve got packing to do. . . Spain, Italy, France and Ireland await!

  17. Layla says:

    Sherry, let me make it perfectly clear to you, I said, “on the list of local priorities, this is not a big one.” In regards to San Francisco, I was referring to this:

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/03/05/open-air-semi-enclosed-urinal-to-combat-pee-problem-at-sf-dolores-park/

    The last time I was in San Francisco, this was a very big problem. And frankly, it stank.

    Safe travels, my dear.

  18. Sherry says:

    OK Layla. . . if Ms. Revels working against discrimination is not a big issue for you, why did you call for her to be voted out of office? No need to answer that. . . I already know.

    Regarding the need for “good” jobs, our community and state would do very well to in any way emulate the San Francisco Bay Area, whose unemployment rate is consistently below the national average, college graduation rate is almost 50% and median income is over $85 K annually. But, then again. . . why bother with actual facts and intellectual thought.

    An article about people pissing in Dolores park 2 years ago simply means that San Francisco is aware and vigilant about such things. OH, and by the way, it isn’t only those dreaded “sanctuary seeking” illegal immigrants who have bodily functions. Your bias is clear. . . as it always is. I am thinking that the city and progressive culture of San Francisco is actually better off without those who are so very narrow minded minded and always focused on the negative. I would wager that you think Venice stinks too. . . Venice doesn’t miss you either.

    I would be surprised if the fellow (Tom) who called for Ms. Revels to move to San Francisco has ever been there. I’ll just “consider the source” on that one. My opinion is that he’s just lashing out due to his political prejudice and ignorance. . . just like r&r and several others who frequently comment here, and really have absolutely nothing to say.

    Circling back to Ms. Revels, . . in my opinion, she is on the positive/majority side of this one. Just look at the major companies threatening to pull out of states like Alabama and Georgia that resist gender choice and sexual preference. The world is massively changing and the Republican party’s blind efforts to turn the clock back to the “bad ole days” of white man rule is bringing out the gun totin’, paranoid bigoted haters! How’s that workin’ for ya? I’ll continue to resist them in any way I can.

  19. Layla says:

    Sherry, do you have any idea how tiring it is to be attacked and labeled constantly because I don’t happen to agree with you? You have a great respect for other cultures and religions with the exception of those in your own country. How very progressive of you.

    I offered an opinion and you continue to trash it and anyone who disagrees with you. Perhaps you might be happier in the Bay Area?

    I want you to be happy, Sherry!

  20. Sherry says:

    Layla, it’s quite simple. . . if you do not care to debate with me, then do not address comments to me. If my countering your opinions with my own or with actual facts is tiring for you, then disengage.

    I will continue to exercise my rights to speak out against discrimination, xenophobia, racism, bigotry, climate change deniers, religious zealots, the 1% who avoid paying their their share of taxes, the Tea Party, the NRA, the Trump and Cruz followers, those who try to deny a woman’s right to choose, those who do not protect our environment etc. etc. If you identify with those kinds of people and my speaking out against those things offends you, then so be it. I am not out to “trash” anyone, personally.

    Yes, I’m quite proud to be an open minded, progressive who embraces and appreciates human diversity in all it’s glory and troubles, along with nature in all its splendor. Yes, although I was born and raise here in Florida and my ancestors “illegally immigrated” from England to this region of the US in the 1600s . . . I prefer the much more “inclusive” and forward thinking culture of the San Francisco Bay area. If I were fortunate enough to win the lottery, I would probably choose to return to that region.

    As it is, I’m quite happy living in Flagler Beach and doing my bit to raise some consciousness in a community and culture that could most certainly use it.

  21. Layla says:

    A kindred soul, Sherry! Our ancestors arrived at the same time! I hope you win that Lottery.

  22. Layla says:

    Sherry, a chilling thought just occurred to me….could we possibly be related?!

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