City Hall

Dallas State Senator Don Huffines Flushes the Facts on Dallas' LGBT Ordinance

So, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to fix the language in the city's nondiscrimination ordinance to more accurately describe Dallas' transgender residents. Essentially, the council made a tweak to clarify that gender identity and sexual orientation are not the the same things. Everybody who was protected under the old ordinance is still protected and there are no new protected classes established. The ordinance just makes more sense rhetorically now; gender identity doesn't have anything to do with sexual orientation.

The changes were promoted by the city's LGBT Task Force, which is led by City Council member Adam Medrano, and don't change anything substantive about the ordinance beyond ending an exemption that allowed operators of accommodations intended to be used by a single sex to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. After getting some legal advice in a lengthy executive session during Monday's Quality of Life Committee meeting, no one on the council had any problem with the changes, or even found it necessary to comment on them following Medrano's explaining the reasons behind them.

It's a kind thing that the city is doing to reflect the reality of the people who live here, and it's a nothing burger from a policy perspective, but state Senator Don Huffines, who represents a bunch of North Dallas, the Park Cities, Garland and Richardson, does not view the changes quite so kindly.

"Today, the Dallas City Council rushed through and passed an LGBT ordinance that is potentially as bad as (if not worse than) what voters soundly rejected in Houston. Contact Dallas City Council to demand that this measure be reconsidered. We must have more careful review and thoughtful discourse on this proposal to make sure it doesn’t allow men in women’s restrooms, or worse. Regrettably, this is the same type of sneak-attack governance used by Obama & Pelosi. There is nothing more important than our moral fabric and social virtues, which is why today's measure must be repealed," he said on Facebook Tuesday.

Taking Huffines, who did not respond to a request to comment for this story, point by point: Dallas did not pass an LGBT ordinance Tuesday. It didn't pass any sort of an ordinance. It adjusted the language of an ordinance that has existed since 2002 in a way that made very little change to how anyone in the city is treated. What happened in Dallas is nothing like what happened in Houston, where voters overwhelmingly voted to deny equal protection to their fellow residents. Neither the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance nor Dallas' longstanding nondiscrimination ordinance allow men to use women's restrooms. The Dallas ordinance doesn't even have the word restroom in it, and the failed Houston law only allowed opposite-gender restroom use in a fantasy world in which trans people don't exist. This was not a sneak attack. Even Rickey Callahan, the only member of the council's Quality of Life Committee to express any trepidation about the language changes, voted for the ordinance.

Huffines, who knocked off longtime incumbent John Carona to grab his District 16 seat with the help of Tea Partiers and local microbrewers, apparently does not care enough about the city that makes up most of his district to make even the most rudimentary pass at knowing what's going on, nor does he believe that any of his transgender constituents are doing anything but playing dress up. Or maybe he can't read.

Texas Values Action, a conservative social issues advocacy group, backed up Huffines' statement with one equally untethered from reality:

“This Dallas bathroom ordinance will allow men into women’s bathrooms and that’s why the Dallas City Council is deliberately trying to avoid the people. Their fast track method of passing this dangerous bill that threatens the safety of women and children is the same strategy used in Houston to disenfranchise voters with their failed bathroom bill. Creating law behind closed doors and forcing it onto the people the next morning is a recipe for disaster. These Obama and D.C. style tactics will not work in Texas. Get ready for a Texas-sized response,” the organization's president, Jonathan Saenz, said.

City Council member Philip Kingston, who expressed pride about the city's work with the task force, had a simple message for Huffines:

"Stop lying," he said in a reply to Huffines' Facebook blathering. 
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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