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Archive for Wednesday, September 21, 2011

City to consider ‘gender identity’ as protected class

September 21, 2011

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Lawrence city commissioners now are ready to begin a debate about whether transsexuals and others who don’t identify with the gender of their birth deserve new protections from discrimination.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are scheduled to consider adding “gender identity” as a protected class that can’t be discriminated against in matters of employment, housing and public accommodations.

“Part of what we’re trying to do here is send a message of tolerance,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell, who is supporting the ordinance. “Lawrence is a tolerant community, and here’s an example.”

But expect a debate at City Hall about whether adding legal protections for transsexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers and others who consider themselves to be transgendered is an act of tolerance or an overreaching regulation by government.

James Dunn, a local landlord who also is a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission, said he has not seen strong evidence that transgendered individuals are being discriminated against in the city.

“I heard people struggling with their own internal self, but I didn’t hear discrimination,” Dunn said. “I just did not see anything that rose to the level that required us to put in a whole new ordinance, especially given the amount of education it would require and the confusion it may create.”

The issue of a new law has been brewing in Lawrence for more than two years. But thus far it has met resistance. The city’s Human Relations Commission, which deals with matters of discrimination in the city, voted in May of 2009 that the city should not create a new ordinance. The Human Relations Commission’s vote, though, is just an advisory one, and city commissioners were left with the final decision.

City commissioners, however, never took the issue up. Cromwell on Wednesday conceded that was because commissioners did not want the topic to become a major issue in City Commission campaigns, which began in early 2010.

“It would have been a very poor topic to have right in front of an election,” Cromwell said. “In general, these sort of single-issue type of elections aren’t good for a town.”

But Cromwell said now is the time to have the discussion. Lawrence would be the only community in the state to have a local anti-discrimination law addressing gender identity. Manhattan briefly passed a law, but it was repealed earlier this year when a new slate of city commissioners took office. Other regional communities — Kansas City, Mo. and Boulder, Colo. are among the nearest — do have gender identity laws, in addition to multiple communities across the country.

Cromwell said the law is needed because currently an employer or a landlord can take action against a person simply because they identify their gender in a way that is contrary to how they were born.

“This is really more of a right to work issue for these people,” Cromwell said. “They just want to have the right to work and live in town like everybody else. As it stands right now, if you choose not to rent to someone, you can say ‘I don’t like the fact you’re transgendered so I’m not going to rent to you.’”

The new law would make it illegal to discriminate in matters of employment, housing, and public accommodations, which includes allowing people to be served at restaurants, hotels and other businesses open to the public.

Cromwell expects significant opposition to the proposal. In April, about 50 people attended a meeting to express concerns about the gender identity proposal. Representatives from the Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America, and the Kansas Family Policy Council attended the meeting. Attempts on Wednesday to reach a local organizer of that meeting were unsuccessful. But Cromwell said he had received multiple emails from individuals who objected to the proposal on religious and moral grounds.

Scott Criqui, chair of the city’s Human Relations Commission and a supporter of the proposal, said he expects transgendered people who have suffered from discrimination to make their voices heard too.

“Discrimination toward the transgendered community happens frequently, but most people are smart enough that they don’t say you can’t work here because you’re transgendered,” Criqui said. “But hopefully this ordinance would give people some leverage to say ‘I think the real reason you are firing me is this.’”

City commissioners haven’t yet released a draft of any proposed ordinance. A draft is expected to be released by Thursday afternoon. Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Comments

dogsandcats 2 years, 6 months ago

"Kansas would be the only community in the state..."

Oh, editor!

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75x55 2 years, 6 months ago

"Protected class" isn't about "equal rights". Stop obfuscating the issue.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 6 months ago

Gender Identity. I never knew this was a problem. You unzip your pants or look under your skirt (do any women wear many of these anymore?) and compare notes with a friend. That is how you identify gender. Why do these addled "city commissioners" have to waste time anguishing over this? What is so difficult about identifying just what your gender is? Look in your jeans (genes)! Sheessssshhhhhh!!! What a misserable waste of government time.

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consumer1 2 years, 6 months ago

So, if a person is hired because of their transgendered identity, do the straight people who applied for that job get to file suit for discrimination??

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kansasredlegs 2 years, 6 months ago

Just walking downtown, I would think this City needs an ordinance more to protect those with tatoos, dreds, ear gauges, split tongues, facial piercings, nose rings, and those wearing medeviel battle armor. Funny, don't see any of those folks greeting citizens coming into City Hall or for that matter, working at Buff Bob's either. Cromwell: rememeber it's sometimes better to remain silent and let people guess whether your an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm going to identify myself as a bald eagle to get endangered species classification.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 6 months ago

In the future, necessary rooms will be marked, Men, Women, and Whatever Floats Your Boat.

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Barclay 2 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence's Proposed Gender Identity Ordinance. Passing this ordinance would be a huge business killer for Lawrence.
No legal definitions for the various gender identity groups exist. Any employer can write their own policies concerning gender identity employee policies, etc., but the city codifying protections will set Lawrence in a quagmire of liabilities... very detrimental to drawing and/or keeping employers and developers from investing in Lawrence. I can appreciate why a law firm, motel, doctor or dentist office, real estate firm, convenience store, etc. would have concerns about having a man dressed as a woman greeting customers or clients behind a receptionist desk.
Legal liability is introduced when a member of the LGBT community is turned down for an employment position or rental agreement simply because they are deemed unqualified for the typical reasons individuals don't get jobs or rental agreements, but with this law on the books a member of the LGBT community could turn around and unfairly and inaccurately claim discrimination simply on the way they identified their gender during the process.
The fact that no discrimination complaints have ever been lodged tells me that Lawrence is already treating all individuals with the respect and dignity they deserve, this in spite of the fact that there are divergent views on the issue. Kudos to Lawrence, but until legal definitions for gender identity actually exist, codifying gender identity protections is a very poor idea.
I want to offer my sympathies to city attorneys who have been tasked with the impossible job of trying to write an ordinance that will not be tested in court. Should this ordinance pass, attorneys on both sides will be standing in line waiting to make some money off the litigations that are certain to come.

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Barclay 2 years, 6 months ago

Agreed. Passing this ordinance would be a huge business killer for Lawrence. No legal definitions for the various gender identity groups exist. Any employer can write their own policies concerning gender identity employee policies, etc., but the city codifying protections will set Lawrence in a quaqmire of liablities... very detrimental to drawing and/or keeping employers and developers from investing in Lawrence. I can appreciate why a law firm, motel, doctor or dentist office, real estate firm, convenience store, etc. would have concerns about having a man dressed as a woman greeting customers or clients behind a receptionist desk. Legal liability is introduced when a member of the LGBT community is turned down for an employment position or rental agreement simply because they are deemd unqualified for the typlical reasons individuals don't get jobs or rental agreements, but with this law on the books a member of the LGBT community could turn around and unfairly and inaccurately claim discrimination simply on the way they identified their gender during the process. The fact that no discrimination complaints have ever been lodged tells me that Lawrence is already treating all individuals with the respect and dignity they deserve, this in spite of the fact that there are divergent views on the issue. Kudos to Lawrence, but until legal definitions for gender identity actually exist, codifying gender identity protections is a very poor idea. My sympathies to city attorneys who have been tasked with the job of trying to write an ordinance. Should this ordinance pass, attorneys on both sides will be standing in line waiting to make some money off the litigations that are certain to come.

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Number_1_Grandma 2 years, 6 months ago

Just wondering...Since Kansas made into the constitution "Marriage is between a man and a woman" and say a man has sex change while being married and stays married, would their be some legal problem then? Because transgendered, this would mean a woman is married to a woman. And since the Kansas constitution forbids this, how does this all come into play? Kansas constitution VS Lawrence ordinance. Seems contradictory to me!

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KS 2 years, 6 months ago

This is a job killer for Lawrence. Just another regulation! Good grief! When are folks going to get a life? Show us the discrimination!!!!!!!!! Right on "wissno".

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Scott Morgan 2 years, 6 months ago

why be against it? We already have civil rights laws protecting any law abiding group. This is one of the major problems are nation has now. Too many laws, too hard to follow, and expensive to keep up with.

California and New York are drowning in laws on top of laws.

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SouthSide 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm against any protection for any people, except me.

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ivalueamerica 2 years, 6 months ago

I hope there will come an end to special rights allowing bigots to discriminate against others.

It is a shame we have to have those laws, but until equality comes to all law abiding citizens, bigots need to be punished severely for trying to make some citizens less than equal based on nothing more than bigotry, ignorance and or hatred.

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independent_rebel 2 years, 6 months ago

Funny. Those on the left are demanding we enact protection when we have not seen a single case (that has been reported anyway) showing discrimination agaisnt such individuals in Lawrence. Many who lean to the right, naturally, object to this proposed ordinance.

Those on the right are demainding we require proof of citizinship & a photo ID to vote in KS, when there is some evidence, but not a lot, of voter fraud by illegal aliens. Those who lean to the left, naturally, oppose this legislation.

Ain't we great?!?

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

If Lawrence is so tolerant according to Mayor Cramwell, why is he trying to cram recycling down the public's throat. How about some tolerance there, Mayor Cromwell?

All this nonsense while the city cannot move forward, bring jobs, and lower taxes. Will there be a new staff position for this new group of protected?

A landlord would rather rent to a gender confused tenant than to the 13 who burned down a house? Does Mr. Dunn and Mr. Criqui have any proof that there are cases in town of someone not being hired because of gender idenity?

Have the staff legal department just write something so Mayor Cramwell can very well sign it and get on with business. Goes to show you, that there is not much to do at City Hall.

Has the auditor determined how much will be spent to write the ordinance and enforce it?

After all, Boulder has an ordinance, when is the last time the city had a case of employer discrimation based on transgender?

At least this topic will take the news away from the Varsity house for a while.

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