UGA-UF football game focus of gay equality push

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The city of Jacksonville–home to Saturday’s Georgia-Florida football showdown–made its dislike of the gays pretty clear earlier this summer, though some alumni of both colleges are calling on campus leaders to use the game rich in tradition to change that. Which is a bit ironic since UGA can’t seem to muster the gumption to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of its employees, something UF has already done. But anyway, football and Jacksonville. In August, the Jacksonville City Council voted 10-9 against expanding the city’s human rights ordinance to include gays. Now, several UGA and UF graduates are lobbying the presidents of both schools to “use their influence” to push the city to approve the expanded human rights ordinance they rejected two months ago, according to the Florida Times-Union. “The University of Florida and the University of Georgia have long-standing non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation,” the alumni say in a letter to both schools. "These policies have helped protect and assert the dignity and equality of students, alumni and faculty. Universities stand on principle, and their leaders are expected to educate and address such issues.” Signees of the letter include a physician, a retired military officer and business people. They fear that Jacksonville, without expanding the ordinance to include gays, will lose the immensely popular football game when its contract to host it ends in 2016. “Jacksonville’s hold on the game is not guaranteed,” according to the letter. “There are many competing cities that covet its economic impact and all of them--unlike Jacksonville--already have some measure of civil rights protections that are more in line with the two Universities. They include Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Charlotte. Our goal is to preserve the game in Jacksonville and continue the great tradition.” College football as a vehicle for LGBT equality. Who da thunk it. The full letter, sent to UF President Bernie Machen and Michael Adams, president of UGA, on Oct. 16:

Dear Presidents Machen and Adams: For nearly a century, the University of Florida and the University of Georgia have met in Jacksonville every autumn to play football--a long-standing tradition. But we have another tradition in Jacksonville. This year the City Council voted to continue to allow discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in housing, employment and accommodation. In 2012, Jacksonville’s civil rights policies are woefully out of step: it is the lone major city in the region that does not protect its gay and lesbian citizens and visitors. Conversely, the University of Florida and the University of Georgia have long-standing non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. These policies have helped protect and assert the dignity and equality of students, alumni and faculty. Universities stand on principle, and their leaders are expected to educate and address such issues. When city leaders vote to allow bigotry, repercussions can be expected--and our concern--beyond equal rights--is that the game is in jeopardy of moving. If these two prestigious institutions reject discrimination, how long will they continue to bring fans, faculty, alumni and athletes to a city that accepts it? A ‘prime time city’ should be a welcoming host for everyone. Jacksonville’s hold on the game is not guaranteed. There are many competing cities that covet its economic impact and all of them--unlike Jacksonville--already have some measure of civil rights protections that are more in line with the two Universities. They include Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Charlotte. Our goal is to preserve the game in Jacksonville and continue the great tradition. But Jacksonville’s current leaders support discriminatory policies that are in direct contrast with those of the Universities of Florida and Georgia. We ask that the Universities use their influence to work for change and secure civil rights for everyone. Let’s stand strong for the American principles of equality and fairness and continue to keep this great football tradition home in Jacksonville. Thank you. Signed, David Uible, UF ’87 Jacksonville, FL Wade Griffin, UGA ’95 Waycross, GA Tony Caribaltes, UF ’87 Jacksonville, FL Laura Evans, UGA ’84 Jacksonville, FL Rochelle Berman Stoddard, UF ’92 Jacksonville, FL Karen L. Tobi, UF ’88 Jacksonville, FL Jeffrey T. Cragar Jacksonville, FL Mathew Stilwell Jacksonville, FL Jeff Harris, UF BS ’82 PhD ’92, MD ’94 San Francisco, CA Bernard Contreras, UF ’79 Jacksonville, FL Wally Ericks Jacksonville, FL Mary Pappas Acree, UGA ’87 Jacksonville, FL Dan Hutton Jacksonville, FL Marcus Stone, UF ’09, ’10 Jacksonville, FL Bryan Hampton, UF ’98 Orlando, FL Dan Lovingood, UGA ’83 Dalton, GA Tom Minette Jacksonville, FL Russ Hatcher, UF ’08 Jacksonville, FL Richard Overton Jacksonville, FL Jim Provencio Jacksonville, FL Christopher Downing, UF MD ’12 Jacksonville, FL Mark Drummond Jacksonville, FL Richard Ceriello Jacksonville, FL Casey Hampton Jacksonville, FL Lauren B. Hannahs UF Director of LGBT Affairs Gary Lambert Jacksonville, FL Stephanie Rutan St. Marys, GA Caryn Rosenthal, UF ’87 New York, NY Tim Wright Jacksonville, FL Christopher Gerlach Jacksonville, FL Paul Krom Jacksonville, FL Tina Wirth Jacksonville, FL Erin O’Brien, UF ’87 Jacksonville, FL Selecia Jones Jacksonville, FL Shawn McGuire Jacksonville, FL Jeff Wright Jacksonville, FL Max Movsovitz Jacksonville, FL Michael Alan Baker, UF MBA ’09 Kansas City, MO Frieda Saraga Jacksonville, FL Cheryl Ruppert, UF ’73 Jacksonville, FL Michael Corby Jacksonville, FL Lisa Yoffee, UF 84 Asheville, NC Dan Ward Jacksonville, FL Anne Goldbauer Jacksonville, FL Cindy Bryson Jacksonville, FL Mary Lou Collins Jacksonville, FL Marla Rosin Jacksonville, FL Pennie Borrousch Jacksonville, FL Daniel Arch Jacksonville, FL Eric Orth Jacksonville, FL

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