A 30-minute television documentary -- produced by an Emmy Award winning production team -- explores the debate to add six words to the City of Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance: "Sexual orientation, gender identity or expression."
The documentary, to be produced for multiple airings on Jacksonville / North Florida prime-time TV and available free on-line, is the first in-depth investigation of a controversy that some consider a community game-changer.
"If we continue to be the largest city in Florida without these basic civil rights protections, Jacksonville will look even more like a relic," says Jimmy Midyette, co-chair of Jacksonville Committee for Equality.
Along with the documentary's TV and on-line presence, 1,000 DVD's of the program -- also free and distributed throughout the community -- will be available for showings at local schools, churches, civic groups, theaters, political engagement events and to city council members, government officials, boards and agencies, and other local "movers and shakers."
Without the six words in the ordinance, a Jacksonville employer can fire a gay employee. A Jacksonville landlord can evict a gay tenant. A Jacksonville shopkeeper can refuse to serve a gay customer. No reason is required. No legal recourse is feasible.
"Just someone who decides 'They look like they're gay,' and says, 'We don't want you here,'" says Celeste Krueger, Executive Director of OneJax.
Over 150 Florida cities -- including Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Tallahassee and Gainesville -- already added protections for gays in their HRO's.
"But that type of discrimination right now is without protection within the City of Jacksonville," says Parvez Ahmed, a member of the Human Rights Commission.
In August 2012, Jacksonville's City Council, heavily lobbied by fundamentalist ministers and churches, voted down the LGBTQ amendment after three months of dramatic debate -- and after receiving 10,000 e-mails from constituents for and against the issue.
The resulting notoriety surrounding the Council's vote went nationwide and still reverberates nearly a year later.
"We don't look good," says Dr. Henry Thomas, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Florida. "If we put out a sign that says 'Talented Gays Not Welcome,' we're not going to get very far."
Without the LGBTQ amendment in the ordinance, some believe Jacksonville could lose millions in new business.
"My grandkids won't believe we fought over this issue," says Bill Bond, longtime civic leader and former Vice Chairman of Jacksonville's First Union Bank.
Supporters of the amendment are now deciding when -- or even if -- to re-introduce the bill.
If our Indiegogo fundraising project succeeds, we can finish the program and have it ready for airing and distribution by fall 2013.
The documentary, with its emphasis on educating the viewer -- and with a potential audience of tens of thousands of Jacksonville citizens -- will reinvigorate community discussion, stimulate productive dialogue, and have a major and positive impact on the future of the LGBTQ amendment.
Jacksonville is at the crossroads of an historic opportunity. If in fact the HRO amendment is a game changer for our city, it's also a life-changer for our LGBTQ citizens.
We ask you to join us in our effort and become part of this defining moment in Jacksonville history and the flourishing human rights movement worldwide. Thank you so much for your support.
Bill Retherford, President & CEO of Very Independent Pictures Inc., is a three-time Emmy Award winning television producer and writer -- and the recent recipient (April 2013) of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.
For five consecutive years (2007-12) his documentaries were named Florida's Best Public Affairs Television Program by the Society of Professional Journalists.
His documentary on the algal blooms in the St. Johns River -- "The Green Monster, It Came From The River" -- was named "Best Reporting on the Environment" by the Society of Environmental Journalists (and beat the entry from "The CBS Evening News").
His most recent documentary on human rights -- "Ax Handle Saturday, Jax & Race, Then + Now," aired on WJCT, Jacksonville's PBS affiliate, in February 2013.
Bill -- born and raised in Jacksonville -- appeared on-camera as an Emmy Award winning television news and feature reporter for CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox affiliates and as a television documentary producer, writer and narrator in the Miami, St. Louis and Los Angeles markets.
His team, Emmy Award winners in their own right, represent the best as state-of-the-art editors, videographers and graphic / animation artists.
His production company, Very Independent Pictures Inc., is a corporation organized and registered under the laws of the State of Florida.
WATCH OUR PROMOTIONAL VIDEO
Go to the top of this page to see our two-minute "Six Words" PROMOTIONAL VIDEO.