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Public Workshop For Proposed Non Discrimination Ordinance

A public workshop has been set by the Pensacola City Council, on a proposed non-discrimination ordinance sponsored by Councilman Brian Spencer.

Pensacola’s current non-discrimination ordinance, passed more than 30 years ago, deals only with fair housing. Spencer’s proposal expands it to include employment and public accommodations.

“Let’s say, the hospitality industry, restaurants, many of the accommodations and retail establishments are clearly defined as places that must provide equal opportunity,” said Spencer. “Not only for employment, but for enjoyment of those establishments.”

The measure was discussed at length during last week’s Council meeting, with a number of speakers expressing support for the measure. Among them, Sara Latshaw, Director of the Northwest Florida ACLU.

“We are all of the mind that Pensacola is certainly not a place for discrimination,” said Latshaw. “And that we need to work together to make sure that everyone is welcome and that we are including everyone no matter who you are, what you look like or who you love.”

If passed, the ordinance would protect the rights in a long list of categories: age, sex, race, color, religion, disability, military status, ancestry, marital status, gender identity and sexual orientation.

“I think that Pensacola is way behind the times, when it comes to addressing human rights issues,” said Councilwoman Sherri Myers, who supports the ordinance. Myers, an attorney, once represented the city on the board of the local Human Relations Commission.

“However, it does not really go far enough, especially in the enforcement provisions of the ordinance,” Myers said.

And that’s where the public workshop – approved by the City Council and set for November 9 – comes in. Councilman Brian Spencer says President Andy Terhaar will be in charge of developing the format for the workshop – but Spencer does have some advice for him.

“I can’t imagine a public workshop not having public input, said Spencer. “There will also be the experts in the field that I hope he will utilize that will offer advice on how other municipalities throughout the state have passed similar ordinances.”

Passage of this measure, says Spencer, would be an important step to take, in providing clarity for those who have felt unsure of what protections they have under the law.