Gainesville retains antibias protections despite potty debate

GAINESVILLE — Voters have turned down a measure that would have stripped Gainesville's antidiscrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday, the vote was 11,717, or 58 percent, against changing the law.

The fight began after the City Commission last year revised Gainesville's antidiscrimination ordinance to protect transgender people — those who are born one sex but identify with the other. That allows the city's approximately 100 transgender residents to use the public restroom of their choosing, along with protecting them from job and housing discrimination.

Those supporting repeal say their message has remained consistent: "Keep men out of women's restrooms!"

"That's our motive, plain and simple," said Jim Gilbert, a spokesman for Citizens for Good Public Policy.

On the other side, a group known as Equality is Gainesville's Business campaigned for a "no" vote on the Charter Amendment 1. It argued that the city ordinance did not need amending and that the transgender argument is really a screen for a larger attack on sexual minorities. Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville is generally considered a gay-friendly city surrounded by conservative North Florida.

"This is about attacking the gay, lesbian, bisexual community and repealing protections that are in place," said Joe Saunders, a spokesman for Equality is Gainesville's Business.

The measure also would have prohibited the city from enforcing antidiscrimination laws that protect other categories of people not specified by the Florida Civil Rights Act, which recognizes race, color, creed, religion, gender, national origin, age, handicap, martial and familial status.

A steady line of students were casting ballots Tuesday at the Reitz Student Union. University of Florida president Bernie Machen and his wife, Chris, both opposed changing the law. "It's not needed," said Machen.

Gainesville retains antibias protections despite potty debate 03/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 10:10pm]

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