Last week in Jacksonville, Florida, anti-LGBT activists threw a fit at a public forum because LGBT people dared to say they had experienced discrimination.
The occasion was the first of three “community conversations” held by Jacksonville’s mayor, Republican Lenny Curry, about whether the city should extend nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people. This forum was called “Supporting the Needs and Well-Being of Families,” and as you might expect, it quickly devolved into shouting and false accusations.
About 400 people showed up at the meeting, and they ranged from die-hard LGBT activists to Liberty Counsel members who had successfully shut down a similar nondiscrimination bill in 2012. The Human Rights Campaign reports that LGBT advocates outnumbered opponents four to one.
The first round of speakers for a Q&A portion of the meeting coincidentally all supported the nondiscrimination measure; speaker order was determined by who turned in their speaking request cards first. Attendees told of being discriminated against themselves and cited statistics about the disproportionate rates of suicide among LGBT young people. The New Civil Rights Movement reports:
At one point a speaker asked the audience if any of them had ever experienced discrimination, and several dozen people raised their hands. It was all too much for Marshall Wood, founder of Crossover Jesus and author of The Big Picture: An Essay On The War Against the Fatherhood of God and Culture of Christ. Wood, a retired Air Force pilot sprang to his feet, shouting:
“This is a sham!”
The audience tried to shush Wood for speaking out of turn, but he groused that he was not able to share his views and told Mayor Curry he would organize his own forum where those against granting LGBT protections could be heard.
That’s right; a conservative Christian couldn’t just wait his turn to talk before exclaiming that he was being treated unfairly. And rather than play nice with the others, he’d rather hold his own forum, where nobody will shut him up.
The whining continued:
Wood was not the only one to voice his displeasure with the gathering. Michele Fleming, who has a PhD in Christian Counseling, rejected the idea that the forum lived up to its billing as a “community conversation.”
“That is not my definition of a conversation,” Fleming complained. “That is my definition of a dissertation.”
Jacksonville attorney Joey Vaughn, who helped organize the opposition in 2012 when City Council rejected expanding the city’s human rights ordinance, refuted the claims of the dozens who raised their hands claiming to have been the victims of discrimination saying, “There’s no evidence of widespread discrimination.”
“Jacksonville is still a friendly, receptive place.” Vaughn told the crowd, saying a law protecting gender identity or expression would be like “allowing people who are white to say they identify as African-Americans.”
Never mind the fact that this is an egregious false analogy; it’s pretty obvious that an attorney who fights against inclusive policies is not going to be the expert on whether there is widespread discrimination in his town. Especially when dozens of people in the room are trying to prove to him that he’s wrong.
“I’m going to continue to go back to the data that should haunt us all,” said University of Florida Medical Center professor Jeff Goldhagen, who participated in a panel discussion.
Goldhagen, who specializes in pediatric medicine, said being transgender is not a choice. “People are born who they are,” he said.
Goldhagen said for young people who are LGBT, growing up is as tough now as it was in 2012. Expanding the human rights ordinance “won’t solve all the issues,” but it will show young people that attitudes are changing and that will help them, Goldhagen said.
It baffles me that civil rights could ever be up for public debate, but clearly the toxic propaganda that brought down the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is being heard all over the country. The topic of the next meeting, on Dec. 3, is “Religious Freedoms, Thoughts and Beliefs.” If we think this meeting got a little out of hand, there’s certainly worse to come.
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