ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A federal lawsuit has been slapped on the St. Johns County Board of Commissioners over its refusal to consider a proclamation recognizing the LGBTQ+ community. The complaint filed late last week argues that the board infringed on community members' constitutional rights.
The Pride Proclamation – recognizing June as Pride Month – was introduced during City of St. Augustine and City of St. Augustine Beach commissioner meetings last month.
Before it was passed in St. Augustine Beach, Mary Cobb, with the Women's March Alliance of North Florida, was joined at the podium by her daughter Maya who identifies as LGBTQ+.
“She wanted to show who she was without being scared. So, it meant a lot to her," Cobb described. "And she took great pride. She put her pin on and she came with her flag.“
However, Sara Bloomberg, President of House of Prism – a nonprofit that aims to empower LGBTQ+ youth, said they haven’t had as much luck working with the county.
“You cannot imagine the loneliness, the depression, the feelings of just not being supported. These are the reasons this proclamation is so important," Bloomberg explained. "And there are LGBTQ+ people in St. Johns County. So, why not acknowledge that we exist and give us Gay Pride Month?"
Bloomberg is suing St. Johns County Chairman Jeremiah Blocker and the board of commissioners. The lawsuit claims the board’s decision violated community members’ rights to Freedom of Speech and Equal Protection.
It also accuses the board of violating Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires that public business be conducted in the open and with the public’s knowledge.
The lawsuit stems from the Mar. 8 request made by Bloomberg to discuss the Pride Proclamation.
According to complaint, on Apr. 28 Bloomberg got a phone call from a county employee who said the board of commissioners would not put the proclamation on the meeting agenda for consideration because chairman Blocker “felt it was too ‘controversial’ and ‘left-leaning.’”
“My understanding is that St. Johns County is more centrist, and that they do not like to sign proclamations or anything that is too far left or too far right," Bloomberg said. “This is not a political situation. This is human rights.“
The St. Johns County Attorney Patrick McCormack released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
The county is reviewing the pleadings and will respond through the legal process.
Over the past month, First Coast News also sent multiple requests through the county to commissioner Blocker for comment, but he has not responded.
“It really hurts me," Cobb said. “As a mother of a child that identifies as LGBTQ+, it sends a message that they're not willing to have the conversation, that we haven't come as far as we thought we have come.“