City Commission postpones vote on housing discrimination language

Commissioner Helen Warren discusses the housing discrimination ordinance


The Gainesville City Commission on Thursday considered a draft ordinance that made several changes to its existing housing discrimination ordinance. The ordinance already stated that landlords can’t discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation, race, color, gender, age, religion, national origin, marital status, disability, or gender identity,” and the draft ordinance added “citizenship status or lawful source of income,” as well as adding “gender identity” in some additional sections. Landlords are also prohibited from seeking any information about citizenship status from tenants or disclosing citizenship information about a tenant or prospective tenant “for the purpose of harassing or intimidating a tenant, prospective tenant, occupant, or prospective occupant, retaliating against a tenant or occupant for the exercise of his or her rights, influencing a tenant or occupant to vacate a dwelling, or recovering possession of the dwelling.”

The draft ordinance also renames the Gainesville Equal Opportunity Office to the Office of Equity and Inclusion. 

Various speakers during Early Public Comment asked the Commission to add veterans and domestic abuse victims as additional protected classes. They said they had been told that the new ordinance would mirror the County’s ordinance, but it didn’t. They also said they were dissatisfied with language that includes transgender persons under a paragraph about sexual and behavioral disorders. 

Specifically, the paragraph states, “The term ‘disability’ does not include the following sexual and behavioral disorders: 1. Transvestitism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders.”

During Commission discussion of the draft ordinance, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said he would like staff to add domestic abuse victims and veterans to the list of protected classes and to come back with better language on disability. He said, “This is old language. I think this was written in the 80s, a while ago. And terminology has changed significantly in that time.”

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Commissioner Helen Warren said, “I would love to be able to make the motion on this one, since it’s a topic so dear to me.” She then made a motion to do what Hayes-Santos had suggested. Regarding the disability language, she said, “These people have no mental illness. They have no disability. They are who they are. And we need to honor them. And hopefully get housing ordinances to accept that, too.”

City Attorney Nicolle Shalley said her office would re-work the ordinance and re-advertise it for a future meeting. The motion passed unanimously, with Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioners David Arreola and Gigi Simmons absent.