But as the city council reviewed the mayor’s nominees for the commission, one of its members has been accused of discriminating against them, Think Progress reported.
Councilman Clay Yarborough was the sole 'no' in a 4-1 vote that recommended University of North Florida professor and Fulbright scholar Parvez Ahmed, a Muslim, for the commission. Yarborough said in an interview with the Florida Times-Union that he would be uncomfortable with Muslims holding public office.
Do you believe Muslims should be able to hold a public office in Florida?
“I would have to think about that. I would have to think about that. What kind of office? An elected office? Would you consider the human rights commission to be a public office?”
Just in general, do you believe Muslims should be able to hold any public office in Florida?
“I don’t know.”
In the same interview, Yarborough expressed discomfort with gays holding office as well.
Do you think homosexuals should be able to hold a public office in Florida?
“I would prefer they did not.”
During the council's interview with the two nominees — Ahmed and Florida Coastal School of Law professor Susan Harthill — Yarborough repeatedly asked questions that seemingly had nothing to do with what the candidates would be doing on the Human Rights Commission.
Gay marriage, God, Islam and prayer in public places were some of the issues Yarborough posed to the candidates.
Yarborough defended his questions, stating concerns that if gay marriage came before the Human Rights Commission, he wants to ensure that no member of it supporting the legalization of gay unions in Florida.
“It would concern me if someone of that belief was on that board if they could address that issue,” he said.
In an column titled "Bigotry rears its ugly head in Jacksonville city council meeting," Ron Littlepage eviscerates Yarborough for his attitude about the commission nominees.
Good people came to the City Council Rules Committee meeting Monday in support of Parvez Ahmed, Mayor John Peyton's nominee to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.
Their presence and words will help erase some of the stain placed on this community by the bigotry and intolerance that have surfaced in opposition to Ahmed, a Muslim.
But the stain will remain.