An initiative in Gainesville, Florida that would have repealed the city's decade-old gay protections ordinance has failed.

Voters in the college town (pop. 114,000) that prides itself on its diverse community rejected the initiative by a wide margin. With 100% of precincts reporting, 58% of voters disagreed with the initiative.

Gay rights opponents proposed eliminating the city's protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in January 2008 when city leaders added “gender identity” to the list of classes protected under the law in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations.

Members of the Citizens for Good Public Policy argued that the gender clause allows men to enter women's restrooms, endangering women and children.

“To us public safety is the highest public policy priority and the city left us no option but to do it this way,” Mark Minck, the chair of Citizens for Good Public Policy, the group behind the initiative, told The Gainesville Sun.

“This is a bill that begins to confuse the gender differences between men and women to the point of trying to allow men to use women's restrooms, and, of course, that means sexual predators going after young children,” Tom Minnery, senior vice president of public policy at Focus on the Family Action, said in a radio message urging North Dakota voters to oppose a similar measure.

But only 42% of voters on Tuesday were swayed by that argument, giving gay activists operating in a state with a long history of approving anti-gay initiatives a ray of sunshine. (Floridians passed a gay marriage ban in November by a large margin and Florida remains the only state that bans gay men and lesbians from adopting.)

Minck, in a statement posted at the group's website, said he “regrets the outcome [of the referendum]” and “the fact that out-of-town money and influence played such a major role in diverting attention away from the real issue of public safety.” And called discrimination based on sexual orientation “highly implausible” in Gainesville.

Alex Harper, a 21 year-old-old West Palm Beach student, said he viewed the restroom issue as “conservative propaganda.”

“Gainesville voters overwhelmingly rejected a fear-based campaign of lies and misinformation and stood up for protection from discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Shelbi Day, staff attorney for ACLU of Florida's LGBT Advocacy Project, in a statement. “Voters sent a clear message that the discrimination stops right here, right now.”