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Archive for Saturday, September 24, 2011

Q and A: City’s proposed gender identity ordinance

September 24, 2011

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There are bound to be some questions at Lawrence City Hall next week.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider an ordinance that will make it illegal for employers, landlords, merchants and other business owners to discriminate against people who are transgendered.

Let’s face it: Some people — as a former City Commission candidate once did during a forum — will have to ask what transgender means, and others are bound to have many questions about how government will regulate the subject.

The Journal-World this week compiled a list of questions concerning the issue of gender identity, and asked lawyers, regulators, members of the transgender community and opponents of the law to respond.

If what happened in Manhattan is any indication, opposition is likely. City leaders there passed a law — the first in the state — that would make it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate against a person for reasons of gender identity. But that law was repealed after a new slate of city commissioners took office this year.

In Lawrence, a forum took place in April where several members of the community expressed religious, moral and practical concerns with the idea. An organizer of the local forum did not return phone calls seeking comment this week. Representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, which led the conversation at the April forum, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Here are questions surrounding the gender identity issue:

What issues are city commissioners trying to address?

The city code does nothing to prohibit an employer from firing or refusing to hire individuals who present themselves as a gender that is different than their birth — an employee who was born as a man but now lives as a woman, for example. The code also does nothing to stop a landlord from refusing to rent to individuals who are transgender, and it does not prohibit a merchant or health care provider from refusing service to transgender individuals. The proposed code — it is a draft and commissioners can change it — would make such discrimination illegal in the city, said Toni Wheeler, city director of legal services.

Is such discrimination happening in Lawrence?

Specific statistics for Lawrence aren’t kept, but Stephanie Mott, executive director of the Kansas State Transgender Education Project, said national statistics suggest that such discrimination likely is occurring in Lawrence. A survey of nearly 6,500 transgender individuals across the country found 19 percent have been denied basic medical care. Scott Criqui, chairman of the city’s Human Relations Commission, said he has anecdotal evidence that such discrimination has taken place in Lawrence. He said a transgender friend was denied medical care in Lawrence three times before leaving the community for another doctor.

What does this proposed ordinance say?

The city has an existing ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate against people by reason of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, familial status and sexual orientation. The proposed ordinance adds the term “gender identity” to that list. It also provides a definition of gender identity. It is: “the gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, and other characteristics of an individual, as perceived by the individual or another, and without regard to the individual’s actual or assigned sex at birth.”

Using that definition, what criteria must be met before someone is considered transgender under this law?

Wheeler said a key determination is how people identify themselves. If an individual who was biologically born a man, for example, “identifies as female by identity, appearance, behavior and other characteristics,” the person would receive the protections under this law, Wheeler said. The individual is not required to have undergone medical treatments, such as hormone therapy or other procedures, in order to be protected under the law, although Mott said many transgender people do undergo some sort of medical treatment as part of their transition.

What about someone who occasionally presents as the opposite sex, such as a “cross-dresser?”

Wheeler notes that some cross-dressers do not consider themselves transgender. Under the proposal, the key criteria would be how the person identifies himself or herself.

What about public restrooms? Would this law allow someone who was born a man and continues to possess the biological features of a man to enter a female restroom if they identify themselves as female?

Wheeler said the law would allow for that. Individuals who identify themselves as the opposite sex by “identity, appearance, behavior and other characteristics” would be afforded the ability to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. Wheeler said an employer may be able to limit which bathroom an employee uses, but the employer would have to do so for a “valid business purpose.”

What about locker rooms, such as those found at health clubs or recreation centers? Would they be covered under the law?

Yes. They fall under the category of a public accommodation. Criqui, the chairman of the Human Relations Commission, said the locker room issue likely will require public education. Mott, though, said the issue is workable. Mott, who was born a biological male, said she would never undress in front of other females in a locker room. Instead, she would expect the owner of the locker room to provide accommodations that would allow her to change and shower in privacy.

What other businesses would be covered by this law?

The law defines public accommodation as a business that “caters or offers goods, services, facilities and accommodations to the public.” Examples include lodging establishments, restaurants, bars, barber shops, theaters, swimming pools, public transportation vehicles and government offices.

Have any business groups expressed opposition to the law based on concerns about liabilities it may create for businesses?

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce has asked for a copy of the proposed ordinance to review, but the organization has not yet made any public statements about the proposed ordinance. City commissioners, though, have received correspondence from individuals who have expressed concern that the law will create a “quagmire of liabilities” and will be detrimental to keeping and attracting businesses in the community.

Do other cities or states have such laws?

Yes. Kansas City, Mo., is the closest city to Lawrence that has such a law. Mott said about 100 cities and counties across the country have such laws. In addition, 15 states have statewide laws declaring gender identity as a protected class in discrimination matters.

What have some of those jurisdictions reported?

The Journal-World obviously did not talk to all the jurisdictions with such laws, but information was sought from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which oversees the statewide law that applies to all cities and counties in Iowa. Beth Townsend, executive director for the commission, said her office has had 25 complaints filed under the law in the last three years. “When the law was being debated, people thought we were going to be inundated with complaints, but it hasn’t been that way at all,” Townsend said.

How many complaints does the city’s Human Relations Division receive regarding discrimination of any type, such as race, age, religion, etc.?

Wheeler said that since 2009, the city has averaged eight cases per year. She said many cases are resolved by the parties before any formal finding is made by the city’s Human Relations Commission. She characterized a formal finding by the commission that an individual had been the victim of discrimination as “rare.”

Did the city previously come to some sort of decision about this gender identity issue?

The city’s Human Relations Commission voted 6-3 in November 2009 to recommend that the city not adopt a new ordinance that includes gender identity as a protected class. City commissioners, however, have the final say in the matter, and commissioners are just now taking up the issue. A majority of human relations commissioners, at the time, expressed concerns related to the expense of enforcing the changes to the ordinance, the ambiguity in the language of the term gender identity, and concerns about how the policy would affect public facilities such as public restrooms and shower facilities.

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Comments

staciasmom08 2 years, 7 months ago

Wow, serious? Are there really so many uneducated people in this world? Where do you all live, caves?? A person diagnosed with a Gender Identity Order can no more help to change that they feel the opposite of what they were born than a dog can not bark or me convincing anyone that the sky is actually red and not blue. A trans male born female looks in the mirror and only sees a male, trying to live as a female is as backwards as it gets. This is usually felt in early child hood and causes severe emotional issues in most because they are fought tooth and nail. I'll put it to you this way, we all hear of the bulimia and anorexia right? girls look in a mirror and see an awful, fat blob of a mess, but as you stand next to them you see a frail 85lbs that is ready to die from starvation. This is real and this is out there. Fact is most of you probably know and deal with transgender people daily. you may never know. They suffer inside alone and afraid because people like you that don't care to educate yourselves are too busy trying to sound tough and hard on a website post. Grow up and quit being afraid of what you don't know. google the topic what you may learn just might change how you feel. Also, how many cases do you hear about on the news or anywhere else about a transgender pervert in the woman's bathroom? If its not there now, passing this ordinance is not going to change that. They just want to be who they are and live in peace without discrimination or hate. NO ONE chooses to live that kind of life in this kind of world. trust that! Oh and please do NOT confuse those that play dress up on occasion with a Trans gender, please there are huge differences and a cross dresser will not claim to be trans gender. This is a sad thing we even have to vote on human basic rights, very sad indeed. Please research this if you are really a good human being, you would want whats right to prevail and not whats wrong just because you dont know about it. Here is a good example from 20/20 aired in 2007 on Gender Identity and Children- where it starts. Please check it out! http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3088298&page=1

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demonfury 2 years, 7 months ago

The legal definition of a person who believes themselves to be something or someone they are not is "insane". A man/woman is NOT a woman/man simply because he/she feels like, dresses like, or wants to be one. To me this poses major discrimination of non-transgendered people by virtue of privacy issues being infringed upon in public. Complete a gender re-assignment in it's entirety, and then tell me when you are discriminated against. The real perceived discrimination isn't happening to those people insomuch as it is happening to the people who believe they are something or someone they are not, and therefore, are by definition "insane". The Lawrence City Commission has no business voting on this issue until a thorough investigation has been accomplished as to what they can and cannot actually govern as City leaders. This is a matter for the court system, not the city commission. The impending law suits and economic ramifications could cripple this city more financially than this commission already has. This ought to be interesting to see how it plays out.

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ZoeB 2 years, 7 months ago

Here's the statistics, from the report "Injustice at every turn", a survey of over 6000 Transpeople nationwide. It mirrors numerous smaller surveys in specific areas, by the Williams Institute and others. http://transequality.org/PDFs/NTDS_Report.pdf

Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.

Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.

While discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, it was particularly pronounced for people of color. African-American transgender respondents fared far worse than all others in many areas studied.

Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.

An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.

Discrimination in health care and poor health outcomes were frequently experienced by respondents. 19% reported being refused care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color.

Harassment by law enforcement was reported by 22% of respondents and nearly half were uncomfortable seeking police assistance.

Despite the hardships they often face, transgender and gender non-conforming persons persevere. Over 78% reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite the same levels of harassment in the workplace.

That survey was conducted over two years ago, before the economic crisis that increased unemployment across the board. The situation has gotten considerably worse since then.

To say that "there's no real statistics" is factually inaccurate.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 7 months ago

This is a covert plan to attract more seniors to Lawrence i.e. transgenders who have run out of money in New York.

The trees need trimmed in town, the city has bad streets, businesses are struggling, the city staff needs an overhaul and this is the best the current city commission can come up with.

So, at a local bbq restaurant downtown, "will that be beef or pulled pork sir" as the new transgender cross dresser waiter/waitress awaits the answer.

This could make for dining out really fun.

Anecdotal Mr. Crigui says, but has no real statistic. Toni Wheeler says since 2009 the city has averaged 8 cases per year. So are the cases still active and have the complaintants moved on or are they still here?

From the surface, it appears that the Human Relations Committee needs to do some homework and the City Commission as well.

When will the new employee at McConalds, the cross dresser hand out the Happy Meal?: Will the city trash crew hire a cross dresser? If so, everyone will have the trash at the curb asap. I told everyone, this will prove to be the worst commisson yet!

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AOD506 2 years, 7 months ago

Let's just go ahead and get the ball rolling to vote these commisioners out now, instead of waiting for this to go further. That's what happened in Manhattan. Big brother is too big already. Pack your bags fellas. adiaos.

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ivalueamerica 2 years, 7 months ago

There are no legitimate excuses to allow bigots special rights to force other citizens to be less than equal.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 7 months ago

"...she would expect the owner of the locker room to provide accommodations that would allow her to change and shower in privacy..." How much will it cost to add "Undecided" locker rooms to every athletic club and school?

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Blknblue 2 years, 7 months ago

Another frivolous agenda. Might be discrimination. No real evidence. No detail on the medical because more than likely was refusal to perform the operations etc to make the transformation. Otherwise Doctors take an oath to help those who are sick and in need. And such a procedure does not fall under this oath. The fact is these people feel something deep inside that makes this all wrong and they think society is to blame. And any law that mainstreams this will some how quiet the voice.

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Liberty275 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm getting me a job dancing at the dirty bird! Woohoo!!

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Richard Payton 2 years, 7 months ago

Denied medical care three times for what? Maybe, a drug addict wanting drugs from the doctor. I'm not certain if that was the case or not but no one knows the condition of this person from this article. Not a good idea to allow the "member" in public restrooms around underage girls. I agree with the City's Human Relations Commission on this.

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allamerican4ever 2 years, 7 months ago

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

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jafs 2 years, 7 months ago

In general, I'm against discrimination.

But, in this case, I have some concerns about the public restroom and locker room aspects.

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