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Posted: 7:39 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016

Jacksonville expects to be competitive for NCAA/ACC championships, despite own history debating LGBT rights

NCAA Basketball in Jacksonville
Stephanie Brown
NCAA Basketball in Jacksonville

By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

Fifteen college athletic championship events are on the line.

Just two days after the NCAA announced they were pulling seven championship events from North Carolina in this academic year, the ACC announced it would pull eight championships as well.

This is all in response to North Carolina’s new state law, which prevents cities in the state from extending protections to the LGBT community beyond what is in state law. That means transgender people are required to use public restrooms which correspond to their sex, not their gender identity.

“NCAA championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment if NCAA events remained in the state,” says a statement from the NCAA on its decision.

“As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination. Every one of our 15 universities is strongly committed to these values and therefore, we will continue to host ACC Championships at campus sites. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values,” reads a statement from the ACC Council of Presidents.

The Jacksonville Sports Council is now looking to benefit off North Carolina’s loss.

“Our job, and the main reason we’ve been in business, was to chase championships,” says JAXSPORTS President/CEO Rick Catlett.

Catlett tells WOKV that they are waiting to see how the NCAA and ACC move forward with bidding out the events. He’s says they have a good history with both organizations and would be happy to host any of these events.

“Jacksonville has the venues for a lot of the championships, and we would be very competitive,” Catlett says.

He believes the City would be able to accommodate the tight timelines on some of the championships, and doesn’t foresee many other logistical issues. He knows there will be competition with other cities, but believes Jacksonville is in a good position.

The City is not without its own history of debating LGBT rights, though. An attempt several years ago to expand the City’s Human Rights Ordinance to include specific protection based on “sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression” failed, and the revived effort that sparked mid-2015 ended with the Mayor offering some action, and the City Council then withdrawing two competing HRO bills in order to see what impact that action had.

Jacksonville’s Mayor Lenny Curry ordered the City employment laws to be brought in to compliance with anti-discrimination protections at the state and federal level, but did not explicitly address private business, public accommodations, or housing. A WOKV investigation later found that the very protections at the center of the HRO debate- for sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression- have now, in fact, been added to City employment laws per the Mayor’s directive, but still no changes in the other areas.

Curry says it’s “fundamentally wrong” to compare Jacksonville and North Carolina in this area.

“North Carolina actively pursued restrictions of certain rights. Here in Jacksonville, under my leadership, we convened community conversations to consider the rights of people under the law. I loved to codify the City of Jacksonville’s policies procedures to ensure that they are consistent with civil rights protections under federal and state law. I believe now, as I stated then, we have taken an appropriate action. There is no question in my mind we are an open and inclusive city,” says a statement from Curry.

He adds that the City will continue to pursue NCAA events and that he believes they will have success in that.

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