The County Commission in Osceola County, Florida voted unanimously Monday night to pass a human rights ordinance that makes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression illegal. Specifically, the ordinance will offer anti-discrimination protections in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
Under the ordinance, religious groups will “not have to hire or allow membership outside their own sect” as The Orlando Sentinel reports. They will, however, not be able to discriminate against LGBT people. That upset some religious leaders on hand at the commission meeting:
“I will not provide Viagra or fertility assistance or adoption assistance” to gay couples, physician John Littell said, comparing homosexuality to abortion as part of the “crisis of love and crisis of conscience” in the community.
Several pastors, including several Latino pastors who needed translation from Spanish, argued in opposition.
“What we’re asking you to do is not trample on the rights of the religious community,” said the Rev. Jim Book, pastor of First Christian Church of Kissimmee.
County Attorney Andrew Mai told speakers that hiring and firing based on sexual orientation would not be allowed.
“If you fire [someone] based solely on sexual preference and not on religious views?” Mai said. “Then you would be in trouble.”
The commission’s lone Republican Fred Hawkins spoke passionately against critics of the ordinance:
“Someone said to me, ‘We’ll continue to discriminate until they change their ways,'” Hawkins recalled. “You ain’t going to change their ways by discriminating against them, I can tell you that.”
“This is not ‘religious discrimination’; this is not endorsing someone’s lifestyle,” Hawkins said of the ordinance. “I don’t want to see discrimination against anybody. Discrimination is ugly. … I’m a Christian; I believe in the Bible, but I will always uphold the law, and you cannot discriminate against anybody.”
Fellow commissioner Cheryl Grieb, spoke of the discrimination she has encountered in her lifetime, saying, “[M]y partner — of this Saturday 23 years — did work in a law firm and was told that if anyone there was gay, they would be fired. She did have to live in the shadows.”
Osceola County is the 11th county in Florida to ban discrimination against LGBT people.