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Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

Rafael McDonnell celebrates the passage of full Transgender protections for Dallas County Employees on the steps of the County Administration Building. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School is to his right. (c.d. kirven photo)

Dallas, Texas – By a vote of 3 to 2, the Dallas County Commissioners Court passed employment protection for Transgender people who work for the county.  After a five-week struggle, both sexual orientation AND gender identity and expression are now protected classes under the law for the county’s approximately 7,000 workers. According to the Dallas Voice, the vote of 3 in favor of Court Order 21, and 2 opposed fell along party lines, with Democrats Judge Clay Jenkins, John Wiley Price, and Dr. Elba Garcia in the majority, and Republicans Maurine Dickey and Mike Cantrell in the minority.

Though the Commissioners Court voted to include sexual orientation as a protected class in March of this year, advocates in the LGBTQ community called for a fully inclusive protection statute in the county, specifically naming gender expression and gender identity. Rumors swirled for the last two weeks, because what seemed to many as an obvious move on the part of county commissioners was thrown into doubt when open opposition on the political and religious right wing began to be voiced.  As late as this morning, LGBTQ leaders were warned that there would be vocal opposition to the inclusion of Transgender people in the statute, and to expect it to get “loud and nasty.” The courtroom braced for a strong debate, as citizens took up every seat, and many stood along the walls, waiting for the main event of the agenda, Court Order 21. Speakers rose to the podium for a full half hour, the amount of time allocated by the court for speakers to any issue. The commissioners extended the time to accommodate all who had registered in advance to speak to the issue.  Not a single speaker spoke in opposition to the proposal. Speeches in favor of the passage of Court Order 21 were clear, well-reasoned, respectful, and firm, all calling for justice to be done and equality to be extended to everyone in Dallas County.  Ms. Rebecca Solomon, Banking Officer for Bank of America in Dallas, appealed to the business sense of the court, reminding them of the many Fortune 500 companies in Dallas County that have full gender expression and gender identity protections in their Human Resources regulations. She said, “As a transgender person, I have vowed never to work in an environment in which my economic security is at risk because of who I am.  Dallas County needs to catch up with the rest of the country.”  Attorney Cece Cox, Executive Director of the Resource Center of Dallas, reminded the court that the issue before them was one of workplace fairness, and should not be swayed by beliefs that disapproved of classes of people.  Jesse Garcia, longtime Latino gay leader in the city and county, spoke out passionately for justice to be done, and for full inclusion of Transgender people under the law. African American lesbian leader, c.d. kirven, invoked the years of struggle LGBTQ people have endured in this country and in North Texas, saying that it was time for the “war” on people of difference in this culture to be over. Patti Fink of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA), said that it was time for the commissioners to exercise leadership on this issue, and vote for equality. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, Theologian-in-Residence of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, concluded the speeches of the day, arguing that progressive religious communities fully supported equality, justice, and inclusion for all, and stated, “God created all, male and female, in the image and likeness of the divine. My interpretation of the book of Genesis on this matter suggests that Transgender people are at the heart of God’s love and God’s will, and are fully included when God pronounces the whole of creation ‘very good’ at the conclusion of the divine work.” He continued, “I look forward to the honorable members of this court doing the right thing, the just thing, and voting ‘Yes’ on Court Order 21.”

As dozens of Transgender men and women held their breath, Commissioners Dickey and Cantrell announced their intentions to vote ‘No’ on the proposal.  Dr. Elba Garcia said she was voting in favor of full inclusion, calling it an act of “justice,” and a step toward catching up with the rest of the world. John Wiley Price, citing medical advice he had sought out, agreed with Dr. Garcia that this vote was about doing the right thing.  He called the question, and Judge Clay Jenkins counted the votes necessary to make Transgender protections a reality for the many gender variant people who serve the county. A roar of approval rose from the crowd in the courtroom, and the celebration continued outside on the steps of the Dallas County Administration Building.  Rafael McDonnell, who tirelessly worked for passage of the court order, exuded joy as he thanked all the supporters and the county commissioners who made today’s victory for equality a reality.  The vote will have impact across Texas and the nation, given the leading position the Lone Star State holds in size and reputation as a conservative bastion. Dallas County is now ranked the ninth most populous county in the United States at over 2,400,000 people. It now joins Texas municipalities such as Dallas city, El Paso, Austin, and Houston in full protection for both sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression for employees.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, Brite Divinity School, Dallas Commissioners Court, Dallas County Texas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, gay men, GLBTQ, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, Politics, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Transgender Equality, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

   

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