JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, May 21, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A proposed “civil rights” ordinance could open public restrooms and showers to transgender members of the opposite sex, its critics warn.

The city council of Jacksonville, Florida, is considering passing an ordinance to outlaw “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, public accommodations, or housing. That means no employer, landlord, or owner of any facility open to the public may refuse to hire or rent their property to anyone who claims to be homosexual or transgender.

The measure, supported by Councilman Warren Jones, also leaves employers vulnerable to lawsuits if an applicant claims he is a victim of discrimination.

“This ‘civil rights’ ordinance takes away more rights than it supposedly grants,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, a pro-family legal organization.

Such a measure would “further infringe on the religious freedoms of Christians, and the majority of mainstream Americans who do not accept such alternative lifestyles as normal,” Joey Vaughn, a local business owner, told the Florida Baptist Witness. “There is no exemption or protection under the ordinance for followers of Jesus Christ who own or work in a business.”

The Jacksonville Baptist Association has been active in opposing the measure. However, members of the Religious Left have supported it, including two churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, as well as clergy of the Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Jewish faiths.

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The measure follows shortly after a similar motion passed the city council of Hutchinson, Kansas. The final measure, passed city council by a 3-2 vote last week, removed the transgender provision. However, it still opens public accommodations – including any church that rents its facility to the public – to homosexuals. A fact sheet on the ordinance states, “If a church has a parish hall that they rent out to the general public, they could not discriminate against a gay couple who want to rent the building for a party.” The council will vote on the specific legal language on June 5.

Adding transgender rights could facilitate another kind of abuse. Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes has warned that such laws give sexual predators “legitimized access” to women’s restrooms.

“Wherever this [provision] is passed, privacy and decency are eroded,” agrees Staver.

Canadian women have suffered a flurry of restroom attacks by men. In 2010, an Ottawa man was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a 15-year-old girl at Nepean High School. The year before, a Halifax woman was assaulted with a sharp object in a restroom at the mall.

In the United States, Concerned Women for America’s Donna Miller was shocked to see a man urinating in a women’s restroom in plain view, “very intentional, in your face” in 2009.

Yet a Macy’s store in San Antonio, Texas, fired 27-year-old Natalie Johnson for denying a man who identified himself as transgender access to the women’s restroom. 

Staver cited a case in Orono, Maine, where a teenage boy uses the female restroom on the grounds of his perceived gender identity.

Citing the inherent controversy, Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter believes the motion should be settled by a public referendum. “I just think it’s an important issue and the citizens of the city should vote on it, not 19 people,” he said. The former mayor, John Delaney, who supports the ordinance, disagrees. “It’s not a democracy were everyone votes on everything, like ancient Greece,” he said.

“This has never been about discrimination,” Staver said. “These ordinances are meant to legitimize and codify the homosexual and transgender lifestyles.”

Public comments will be accepted at the council’s next meeting on May 22. The body could vote on the issue by June 12.