Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 9, 2019 4:30 p.m.
With the strong support of audience members, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) unanimously adopted Ordinance 2019-10 at First Reading on May 7, 2019.
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.
This 14-page Ordinance was placed on the agenda by Vice Mayor Len Kreger who believed the time has come for Fernandina Beach to adopt a Human Relations ordinance, thus joining other Florida communities and specifically, Northeast Florida communities of Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville which have taken such action.
Seven eloquent speakers endorsed this measure, including members of the clergy. They thanked the city for making them and/or friends and family feel welcome in Fernandina Beach. Their personal stories were sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always touching. Despite the mayor’s call to avoid public reaction, speakers were all applauded as they left the podium.
A Rayonier spokeswoman suggested additional language to strengthen the proposed ordinance.
Kreger said, “This is the right time, and this is the right thing to do.” He said that he had talked to the local mills, whose leaders also support the measure.
The audience erupted into applause when the 5-0 vote was taken.
Second Reading of this Ordinance is tentatively scheduled for June 4, 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.