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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

independent_rebel 3 years, 1 month 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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deec 3 years, 1 month ago

Actually, no there is no evidence of voter fraud by illegal aliens.

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phoggyjay 3 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like someone is jealous of transgendered people. Come on out and make the change oneeye_wilbur, you know you want to.

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ivalueamerica 3 years, 1 month 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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sustainabilitysister 3 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. This law does nothing but protect basic civil rights for a subordinate group. Why would anyone be against this law that basically protects the rights to have housing and a job on the basis of merit for a marginalized minority group? This keeps Lawrence healthy. We don't need more individuals that contribute positively to the work force, and either rent or own housing to be pushed out on the streets due to discrimination on the basis of gender.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years ago

bigots need to be punished severely +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Is this like Black Miss America contest only allowing Blacks? Haskel only allowing Indians?

Can't have it both ways.

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Scott Morgan 3 years 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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Bob Forer 3 years ago

How is this proposed ordinance "hard to follow?" How is this proposed ordinance "expensive to keep up with?"

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KS 3 years 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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parrothead8 3 years ago

Show me one company who has said they wouldn't come to a town that has an ordinance guaranteeing civil rights to a minority group of the population.

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jmthane 3 years ago

Not contradictory at all, Grandma. If the transgender person's ID still says "male", it's a legal one-man/one-woman marriage. If the transgender person gets the ID changed to "female", then the marriage is automatically null-and-void.

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Jeff Barclay 3 years 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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Jeff Barclay 3 years 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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Flap Doodle 3 years ago

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

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kansasredlegs 3 years 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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Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years ago

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years 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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lunacydetector 3 years ago

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

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dogsandcats 3 years ago

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

Oh, editor!

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