Add Jacksonville, Florida to the growing number of municipalities which are considering or passing laws which would add sexual orientation, gender identity or expression to the list of protected classes of employees. The City Council conducted a hearing yesterday on the bill, 2012-296, which would amend the current law, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, religion, age, disability and marital status to add the words "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression."


See, for example: Hutchinson, Kansas (blog of May 15th), Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska (blogs of March 18th and May 6th), Anchorage, Alaska (blog of April 1st) and South Bend, Indiana (blog of March 27th ).


What is compelling about the groundswell of support for these laws, especially in “red states,” is that the local business communities have generally backed them as being “good for business.”  As we wrote on March 27th, The South Bend Tribune reported that supporters of the law, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, cited the need to improve business prospects: "In today’s economy and today’s competition for talent — if we fail that test, if we remain outside the American mainstream any longer — South Bend could be typecast as a prejudiced and backward-looking community and our economic comeback will be that much harder to bring about."


Similarly, reports that the former Mayor of Jacksonville, John Delaney, was quoted in a full page newspaper ad sponsored by the business group, Jacksonville Civic Council, as saying that this is not only a fairness issue, but that "Businesses won’t relocate here. They won’t come here if we don’t have this thing in the books.”