Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 5, 2019 – 1:06 p.m.
At the June 4, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) Dr. Theresa Sparks and Ms. Genece Minshew, joined by other community members, were on hand to accept a Proclamation from Fernandina Beach Mayor John Miller calling upon all citizens to celebrate advances in the public’s understanding that equality and civil rights apply to all members of society and to work to eliminate prejudice wherever it exists in embracing the great diversity within our community.
Miller acknowledged that while the country has come a long way in its understanding and acceptance of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual (L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+) people, the journey has not been without strife. He read: “Whereas, despite extraordinary progress, L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are and for loving who they love. Advancing the fair treatment of all people has long been a cornerstone of American diplomacy, similarly the City of Fernandina Beach’s commitment to combatting discrimination against the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community will not stop.”
Genece Minshew on accepting the proclamation, thanked the city and reminded commissioners and the public of the Pride Parade and Festival scheduled for June 8-9,. She invited everyone to attend and thanked event sponsors and volunteers for making the event possible.
Later in their June 4, 2019 Regular Meeting, the Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) unanimously approved on Second Reading the proposed Human Rights Ordinance (2019-10) for the city of Fernandina Beach. During First Reading, many people spoke in support of the proposed ordinance which prohibits discriminatory conduct in employment, credit transactions and public accommodations based on the following protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, military or veteran status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
This ordinance includes protected classes in addition to those protected by federal civil rights laws and state of Florida civil rights laws. This Ordinance applies to any employer, business or professional association more than 15 employees and exempts religious organizations also exempted under federal civil rights laws.
On May 7, 2019, the City Commission approved this Ordinance at First Reading. The City Commission directed the City Attorney to work with the business community to address their concerns regarding complaint process. This Ordinance has been amended by the City Attorney to include a “review committee” made up of the City Manager, City Clerk and City Attorney to review complaints made under the Ordinance and make findings as to reasonable cause before a special magistrate hearing can be held.
Although the FBCC unanimously approved the ordinance on both First and Second Readings, because of the additional changes it will return to the FBCC for a third and final reading on July 2, 2019.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.