Dr. Theresa Sparks: “Y’all means ALL in Fernandina Beach!”

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Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 3, 2019  –  noon

Dr. Theresa Sparks

With this quote, Dr. Theresa A. Sparks summed up the scope of the Human Relations Ordinance (2019-10,) which passed on a unanimous vote at Third Reading at the July 2, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC).

This Ordinance 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.

During the first two readings of this ordinance, many people spoke in support.  By the Third Reading, it was predictable that the FBCC, which had unanimously supported passage at the first two readings, would finalize support for the measure.  

In representing the Nassau Inclusive Coalition for Equality Dr. Sparks thanked the FBCC for its support and commitment to equality for all in the city of Fernandina Beach.  She said, “Tonight I stand here as a citizen of the United States and a human being. … The process of making this Human Relations Ordinance a law is one way in which we as citizens can participate in that great experiment [of democracy].

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“Politics are truly local.  The community is where we see policies and laws impact daily lives.  In the community we see our values in the enforcement or non-enforcement of these laws.  Passage of this ordinance sends a powerful message to those who may feel marginalized in this community.  We as a community SAY we are welcoming all, but we are putting actions behind those words.  No matter your color, race, religion, sex, familial or marital status, national origin, differences in ability, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, you will not be discriminated against in this community in employment, housing or public accommodation.  If so, you have redress.” 

She called upon all community groups to support this ordinance.

On behalf of the Nassau Inclusive Coalition for Equality she thanked the commissioners for their willingness to listen, to explore and present this ordinance. She also expressed appreciation to city staff for working to insure that the ordinance met all necessary requirements to become law.

“Most importantly we want to thank this marvelous community of Fernandina Beach.  You are the reason this ordinance made it to this point.  You have spoken at meetings and with your neighbors.  By coming together as a community you have insured that common rights and privileges are available to all our citizens and visitors.

“This is an historic night where y’all truly means all in Fernandina Beach.”

Several commissioners were quite moved by Sparks’ remarks.  They voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance. Following their vote, the audience broke out into a round of applause.

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Suanne Thamm 4Editor’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.

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