Dallas Makes History with Anti-Discrimination Bill
[DALLAS, TX] - Texas history was made on Wednesday, May 8, 2002, when Dallas officials enacted an amendment to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance. With a 13-2 city council vote, and a stroke of the mayor's pen, Dallas now becomes the first city in Texas to extend protections to all its transgendered citizens. Dallas joins both Austin and Fort Worth with city-wide protections based on sexual orientation.
Last July, Houston became the first in Texas to extend protections based on gender identity by amending the nondiscrimination policy covering city employees.
Members of Dallas' Transsexual Community made an eleventh-hour appeal to add transgender community equal protection under the new law. Transgender leaders complained that the ordinance's original language left transgenders out of the bill.
Mayor Laura Miller sought the language revision after learning of the transgender community's concerns and reviewing the language of the proposal. "I didn't think that we gave a good enough definition of sexual orientation," Miller said. "I wanted the community and for city officials to be comfortable with it."
"It is important to be specific, as other cities have been, when addressing the issue," said Tylana Marie Coop, initiator of the last-minute request. "The change at the last minute to cover "gender identity" shows that a few or even one person who stands up for change, educating in a respectable fashion, can and will make a difference for the transgender community."
"It's why it is important for leaders to consult transgenders and other cities who have worked through it," Coop said. "I believe most people want to be fair once they have been educated about transgender issues."
Gay Alliance president Maria Rubio said that she is pleased that city officials adjusted the ordinance's language to the satisfaction of the transgender community. Everyone involved in the ordinance's preparation intended for it to be comprehensive, she said.
"We had good intentions, and we thought it included everything it needed," Rubio said. "I'm glad we got it straightened out before it passed."
The newly enacted nondiscrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, age, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or national origin. It defines sexual orientation as "an individual's real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual or an individual's real or perceived gender identity."
Miller said that few people complained to her about the proposed ordinance in the weeks prior to its passage. The few who did claimed that homosexuality and transsexualism is a personal choice rather than an innate characteristic.
"Including "gender identity" in the Dallas Non-Discrimination Ordinance is a major victory for the transgender community," Coop added. "Dallas, now joins other major cities, like New York City, in setting an example for the nation."
"Now other cities and leaders may have the courage to the same."