A Jacksonville pastor who reversed his high-profile opposition to expanding the city’s anti-discrimination laws has done paid consulting work for the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that works to get protection for LGBT people in city laws.
The Rev. R.L. Gundy said the consulting work had no bearing on him deciding to support adding LGBT people to Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination laws.
“It had nothing to do with the stance I took,” Gundy said.
He said his change since 2012 stems in part from the anguish he experienced when a member of Mount Sinai Baptist Church contracted HIV and Gundy visited him at the hospital.
“I changed my mind when this young man in my church died from AIDS and he felt he couldn’t come home to the church,” Gundy said.
Gundy said it convinced him that societal attitudes toward LGBT people need to change, a message he said he’s shared with his congregation.
“If you can’t talk to your pastor, you can’t talk to anybody,” Gundy said.
Gundy’s work with the Human Rights Campaign was done through his business, which is called Leadership Consultants LLC.
The Human Rights Campaign paid $10,000 in consulting fees for the firm to bring together four meetings in spring 2014 as part of an outreach to religious leaders, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
About two years before that, Gundy spoke against adding LGBT people to the city’s anti-discrimination law when City Council rejected that proposal in 2012.
But as city leaders consider a second attempt at changing the law, a news release issued last week by the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality included Gundy among the religious leaders who support expanding Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination laws.
“It’s time for the city to move forward,” Gundy said in a Times-Union story that ran Thursday.
After that article ran, the Times-Union obtained a document dated January 9, 2014, that Gundy drafted as an offer to contract with the Human Rights Campaign for a wide array of public relations and strategic “action plans.”
Gundy said the Human Rights Campaign never agreed to the terms he offered in the document at a cost of at least $40,000.
He said his firm did work on a more limited scope for the Human Rights Campaign by setting up luncheons for pastors to meet with the organization about LGBT issues in spring 2014.
Gundy said his own views changed in 2013 when a young man who had grown up in the church died of AIDS. Gundy said he visited the man at the hospital and asked, “Why didn’t you come and talk to your pastor?”
“He said, ‘I felt as though I couldn’t come back to my church.’ He made me cry because I had seen him grow up from a little boy.”
Gundy also said the 2012 legislation failed to develop support at the grassroots level.
He said he is supporting the change in Jacksonville’s law in his capacity as Florida director for African American Ministers in Action, a national organization affiliated with People for the American Way.
The Human Rights Campaign is supporting the addition of LGBT people to the city’s human rights ordinance, which makes it illegal to discriminate in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
The Human Rights Campaign is one of the organizations that is part of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, which issued the news release last week citing Gundy as one of the supporters for an expanded human rights ordinance.
“My understanding is that his views over time have evolved on this,” said Dan Merkan, chairman of the coalition.
In addition, he said the Human Rights Campaign would not have hired Gundy or anyone else to work on the Jacksonville effort without knowing in advance that the person was a committed supporter of changing the law.
“He must have been able to articulate pretty well why he supported this issue and really wanted to see it move forward,” Merkan said.
Mayor Lenny Curry is hosting three “community conversations” over the next month to examine various issues regarding the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
The first meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s downtown campus. The meeting will be in the Advanced Technology Center.
David Bauerlein: (904) 359-4581