Equality Florida, the state’s largest organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, has doubled down on its commitment to serving the Jacksonville and northeast Florida area with the opening of an office at 650 Park Street.

equality_1Michael Farmer Equality Florida has been actively working for equality in the Jacksonville area since 1997 and has more than 10,000 individual supporters in Jacksonville, as well as tremendous support from the corporate community.  CSX, Florida Blue, Haskell, University of North Florida, Wells Fargo and Winn-Dixie Stores are among the many Jacksonville-based businesses, both large and small, that support the organization’s mission.

Under the direction of Michael Farmer, Equality Florida’s Director of Development for Central and North Florida, the office will be staffed by Jessica Osborn, Statewide Field Manager, along with at least two interns and a team of volunteers.

“Openness to diversity is a driving factor in decisions about where people choose to live and where corporations choose to relocate or expand their operations,” said Farmer.  “We look forward to working with the local community to ensure that Jacksonville has policies in place that will reflect and protect its diverse population.”

Throughout the past 17 years, Equality Florida has worked closely with Jacksonville’s community, government and business leaders, providing support and advocating for fair business practices and non-discrimination policies.  In conjunction with local partners at the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, Equality Florida worked with the members of the Atlantic Beach City Commission to pass a resolution supporting the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a bill that would create a statewide law banning LGBT discrimination. Currently Equality Florida is working to build support for passage of an Atlantic Beach Human Rights Ordinance, which moved forward to a series of public hearings with a 3-2 vote at a city commission workshop on June 23.

Following meetings with commissioners in Neptune Beach, the council passed a resolution supporting a statewide law that would outlaw discrimination against LGBT people in Florida.  The commission has also passed protections for LGBT city employees in Neptune Beach.

Equality Florida’s annual Jacksonville Gala has been a highlight of the organization’s presence in the area, attracting more than 300 people representative of the area’s diversity.  The 2014 Jacksonville Gala will take place at the Florida Yacht Club on September 27.

Equality Florida is a member of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality and the Jacksonville-based We Are Straight Allies, and staff and volunteers have been visible throughout the community at business meetings, commission meetings and workshops, art walks, farmers’ markets, etc.

“We look forward to supporting the Jacksonville community, including businesses, faith-based organizations, legislative bodies and the community at large,” added Farmer.

“While we have been doing policy and field work in the community for years, our decision to open an office in Jacksonville and hire a full-time staff person reflects our deep commitment to support the passage of pro-equality policies and ultimately help rid Jacksonville of the distinction of being the last large city in Florida without an LGBT inclusive Human Rights Ordinance.”