City Hall

A Week After Houston's HERO Defeat, Dallas Wades Into Trans Rights Discussion

City Council member Adam Medrano, the head of the city's LGBT task force, wants to fix something pretty simple in Dallas' non-discrimination ordinance. Let's just tweak some language, Medrano says, to make sure all Dallas residents are treated equally. Medrano wants to ensure that Dallas' transgender population is protected and referred to respectfully in the nondiscrimination ordinance. His suggestion might have been an otherwise routine amendment — it just might still be — but Tuesday's expected council vote comes exactly a week after Houston voters rejected similar protections.

So, yeah, that could be a big deal maybe, unless Dallas is better than Houston.

As it stands, all the protections afforded by the current ordinance are lumped into the broad category of "sexual orientation." From Chapter 46 of the city code

"It is the policy of the city of Dallas to bring about through fair, orderly, and lawful procedures the opportunity for every person to obtain employment, access to all places of public accommodation, and housing, without regard to sexual orientation. This policy is based upon recognition of the rights of every individual to work and earn wages through gainful employment, to obtain and enjoy goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations in all places of public accommodation, and to obtain housing. The denial or deprivation of these rights because of sexual orientation is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Dallas and is within the power and responsibility of the city to prevent."  

Later in Chapter 46, sexual orientation is defined as trans-inclusive.

"SEXUAL ORIENTATION means an individual's real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual or an individual's real or perceived gender identity," the code says.

So trans people are already covered by Dallas' ordinance, but Medrano and the task force want to amend the language to make it clear the protections for gender identity apply regardless of "sexual orientation," which is a good move because gender has nothing to do with sexual orientation. The task force would also have the city add language about being proud of the diversity within the city and encouraging those who are exempted from the ordinance to follow it anyway. Certain owners of rental, single-family homes and smaller apartment buildings are exempted from treating everyone equally. So are operators of buildings intended to be occupied by members of a specific sex, but that provision would also be dumped in the revision.

Rickey Callahan was the only member of the council's Quality of Life committee to express apprehension about the amendment, suggesting that because he'd been at a conference in Nashville over the weekend it was unfair for the committee to make a recommendation to the full City Council so quickly. Despite reassurances from committee chair Sandy Greyson that there was no practical change in the ordinance, Callahan still wanted to banter about the proposal in an executive session.

The committee ended up being behind closed doors for almost an hour before they came out and voted to recommend the language changes ahead of the full vote.  
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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