Bishop Estévez Urges Duval County Faithful to Address Changes to HRO
June 4, 2020 • Savanna Kearney

In 2017, Jacksonville City Council added language that broadened the protected classes of people to include sexual orientation gender identity and expression to a list of nine characterizations such as race, age, gender, and religion that were already protected from discrimination under the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.

Bishop Felipe Estévez is calling Catholics of Duval County to act today to address this change. Though taking action takes but a few moments of your day, the results could be powerful in protecting the livelihood of the faithful of this diocese.

The Jacksonville City Council will be voting on amending the language in the next few days, and they need to hear input from its Duval County constituents. Below is a list of Jacksonville City Council members to whom the faithful of the diocese can reach out, along with a letter that can be copied and pasted in an email to council members.

“As much as this HRO amendment in its language and enforcement seeks to benefit and embrace certain groups and individuals; likewise, it must equally protect the rights to life, liberty, happiness and conscience of all those with deeply-held religious beliefs – beliefs guaranteed them under the U.S. Constitution,” said Bishop Felipe Estévez in a 2017 statement.

On Friday, May 1, 2020, a court of appeals unanimously ruled that the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO), was unenforceable due to the format of the ordinance’s text. The current wording of the bill may restrict religious groups, such as the Diocese of St. Augustine.

One month later, on Monday, June 1, the refined ordinance was passed through its first City Council committee. On Tuesday, the bill was heard by the Finance Committee and Rules Committee before it goes to the full council.

“God, who is ‘Love’ and who has created all that is, out of love, would see in the spirit of the HRO amendment a goodness that strives to recognize the human dignity of his creation and gives value to every person. Regardless of physical or psychological distinctions, both faith and reason are in agreement on the virtuous fact that we are all human beings deserving of safe homes and employment,” said Bishop Estévez in a recent letter to local council members.

“It cannot be denied, however, that the God of ‘truth’ would find faith and reason at odds over the flawed reasoning which so far seems to have uniquely guided the HRO amendment language and which seeks to normalize, what has heretofore been clearly understood as a dysphoric notion, that gender can be ‘fluid’ and is merely a personal decision detached from scientific reality.”