Supporters of a proposed voter referendum in Jacksonville are considering their next step after the city attorney said they couldn't challenge an initiative that seeks to overturn a new "gay rights" law.
The City of Jacksonville has a human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people. A conservative group known as Empower Jacksonville has been collecting signatures to get the initiative placed on the November ballot. If passed, the initiative would overturn the ordinance – but the city's general counsel, Jason Gabriel, says the initiative is "legally defective and fatally misleading" and would grant voters a power they do not have. According to Gabriel, only the Jacksonville City Council has legislative authority.
"The Charter places legislative powers and duties under the exclusive jurisdiction of the council. The Florida Constitution places legislative powers and duties under the exclusive jurisdiction of the council," Jacksonville.com attributes to a memo from Gabriel. "The proposed amendment would seek to ... usurp the legislative power of the Florida Legislature and the City Council by placing it into the hands of the voters."
Mat Staver with Liberty Counsel disagrees. "The citizens certainly have done their work, and we believe they have the authority," says the attorney whose organization is representing Empower Jacksonville.
"All of the people involved ... are considering the next legal alternatives to this frankly flawed ruling, but it's just because of this single opinion by an individual that these signatures are going to just simply be put to the side and he's not going to allow the citizens to have the right to vote. So the next legal option is obviously to go to court."
In March 2017, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit to invalidate the human rights ordinance, saying it was adopted in violation of Florida law, the Jacksonville Ordinance Code, and city council rules.