Human Relations commissioners tentatively agreed to attend a forum sponsored by Plymouth Congregational Church. The event — scheduled for 7 p.m. June 18 at the church — will include a screening of the documentary “Call Me Malcolm,” and a facilitated discussion about transgender issues.
A proposed city ordinance that would legally protect transgendered individuals from discrimination in Lawrence needs more study but is promising, the leader of the city board overseeing discrimination law said.
Members of the city’s Human Relations Commission — a city-appointed advisory board that oversees local codes prohibiting discrimination — said they wanted to participate in a forum this summer to hear stories of how transgendered individuals suffer from discrimination.
“But I think Lawrence probably is due for a change like this,” said Lori Tapahonso, chairwoman of the commission.
In March, the Lawrence-Douglas County chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition asked city commissioners to create an ordinance that would make it illegal for landlords and employers to deny someone housing or a job based on transgender identity.
Transgender individuals include transsexuals and other people who identify with a gender other than the one they were raised with.
“We realized that the transgender community currently doesn’t have any protection from discrimination, so we decided to ask for it,” said Maggie Childs, chairwoman of the local equality coalition.
Supporters of the ordinance told the Human Relations Commission that transgender individuals in Lawrence do face discrimination. The board was told that a Lawrence male who is transitioning to a female was denied access to a bathroom in a convenience store. Other instances include a woman who is transitioning to a male being harassed by co-workers, and questions about whether a male transitioning to a female should be allowed to sleep in the female area of a local homeless shelter.
The Human Relations Commission has been asked to provide the City Commission with a recommendation on whether an ordinance should be adopted.
Human Relation Commission members said they wanted to get more information before making a decision. Questions were raised by the board about how employers would be protected from unfounded discrimination claims from people who claim to be transgendered. Questions also were brought up about whether the ordinance would protect people who don’t consider themselves to be transgender but do participate in cross-dressing activities.
“Right now, I’m still trying to gather information so I can understand the issue and understand the impact,” said Ernesto Hodison, a member of the Human Relations Commission.
Commissioners tentatively agreed to attend a forum later this summer sponsored by Plymouth Congregational Church. The event — scheduled for 7 p.m. June 18 at the church — will include a screening of the documentary “Call Me Malcolm,” and a facilitated discussion about transgender issues.
Human Relation commissioners did not set a timeline for forwarding the issue on to city commissioners.