Gainesville, Fla. voters reject anti-gay discrimination

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida applauds Gainesville voters’ overwhelming rejection, 58 percent to 42 percent, of an effort by anti-gay crusaders that would have repealed protections against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in housing, employment, public accommodation, and credit extension services.

The Gainesville Charter Amendment was the first vote on civil rights and equality for LGBT persons in Florida since the passage of Amendment 2, the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment, in November, 2008._

For over a year, supporters of Charter Amendment 1 have waged a fear-based campaign that blatantly misled voters about the intent and impact of Charter Amendment 1. “Today Gainesville voters turned out in record numbers and said no to discrimination,” said Shelbi Day, staff attorney for ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project, who was on the ground in Gainesville working with the local group opposing Charter Amendment 1. “Gainesville voters overwhelmingly rejected a fear-based campaign of lies and misinformation and stood up for protection from discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Voters sent a clear message that the discrimination stops right here, right now.”

“Protecting Gainesville’s anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is a significant achievement. I congratulate everyone who worked so hard to help bring about today’s victory,” stated Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “But let us also remember that this is but one step toward dismantling the barriers to complete legal equality for LGBT people. Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go back to work dismantling the many remaining barriers to full equality for LGBT Floridians.”

The ACLU of Florida, which has approximately 800 members and supporters in Alachua County, including Gainesville, provided significant support to Equality is Gainesville’s Business (EQGB), the Gainesville-based political committee created to defeat Charter Amendment 1. A full time ACLU staff attorney was sent to Gainesville for the final six weeks of the campaign, providing important communications and legal support for the campaign. Additionally, the ACLU of Florida mobilized volunteers to phone bank from several of its offices around the state and the ACLU-FL’s Northeast Regional Office Director, Benetta Standly, worked to build important alliances for the campaign.

“EQGB greatly appreciates the support of the ACLU of Florida, and other partner organizations that responded to EQGB’s appeal for help,” says Joe Saunders, EQGB’s campaign manager. “The ACLU’s on the ground assistance was invaluable in our effort to successfully defeat Charter Amendment 1.”

The ACLU of Florida was joined by staff from Equality Florida, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and UF Students for Change – all of which worked closely with EQGB to successfully defeat Charter Amendment 1. Other organizations provided vital assistance and support, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian rights, SAVE Dade, Organizations United Together (O.U.T.), Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, UM (University of Miami) for Equality, Anti-Defamation League, Gainesville Area NOW, and Judy Levy NOW.

About the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project
The ACLU of Florida is freedom’s watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The ACLU’s case striking down as unconstitutional Florida’s ban on adoption by gays and lesbians is now before the Florida appeals court. In addition, the ACLU has won two recent federal court victories (in Okeechobee and Nassau Counties) on behalf of LGBT students. For additional information, visit our web site at: www.aclufl.org._

“This is an important victory for equality, for the proposition that people deserve to be judged based on their merits, and should not face discrimination simply because of who they are,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Gainesville voters saw past the deception and scare tactics used by proponents of Amendment 1 and made clear that Gainesville rejects discrimination against any of its residents, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

Solmonese continued: “Congratulations to Commissioner Craig Lowe, Equality is Gainesville’s Business, Equality Florida, the ACLU, as well as Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, and the rest of the city commission, and the many activists, including HRC members, who worked so hard to protect equality for everyone in Gainesville.”

Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan added: “As Mayor, I am extremely pleased that Gainesville voters chose to reaffirm that discrimination has no place in our city. Many thanks to Equality Is Gainesville’s Business and the hundreds of tireless volunteers who represented the true values of Gainesville. These volunteers demonstrated the diversity and expertise within our community, representing such groups as the NAACP of Alachua County, the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU of Florida, the University of Florida Student Senate and others.”

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