City commission votes to make gender identity discrimination illegal
(Nicole Safker / Alligator Staff) Gainesville city commissioners hear public comments during the City Commission meeting at City Hall Monday night.

The City Commission listened to more than 100 citizens comment on a policy to make discriminating based on gender identity illegal, as 98 cities and counties nationwide have already done.

The commission had not voted by press time.

The ordinance would define gender identity as "an inner sense of being a specific gender … with or without regard to the individual's sex at birth."

The ordinance would not include religious institutions.

Commissioner Ed Braddy said he disagreed with the ordinance because he felt it burdens businesses and grants special privileges to a small group of people.

"When you boil it down, it says that because some people have emotional confusion about their sexual identity, everyone else has to make changes," Braddy said.

Commissioner Craig Lowe disagreed.

"There is nothing special about being able to get a job, have a home, to be able to go to a restroom, or to get the same credit privileges that anyone else does," Lowe said.

Citizens wanting to voice opinions both for and against the ordinance crowded into the auditorium at City Hall and filled the hallway outside.

Some quoted the Bible. Others worried about sharing public restrooms with people who feel they are the opposite gender.

"Surely we have advanced beyond trying to scare people about bathrooms," said Terry Fleming.

But Pastor Matt Gordon, of Cypress Creek Church, said he was worried about his daughters. "My hope is that you as the council will understand my concern not only for their comfort but for their safety," he said regarding bathroom rules.

Nora Spencer, UF's director of LGBT affairs, spoke in favor of the policy.

"We have the right not to be hassled, harassed, beat up or even killed," she said. "And it happens every day, just because of the way we look."

Lowe emphasized that Gainesville would not be the first city to pass such an ordinance.

"This is not any groundbreaking thing for Gainesville," he said. "We're catching up."