NEWS FLASH: Dallas already requires contractors to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies

Posted on 09 Apr 2011 at 8:57am

On Monday, the Nashville city council voted to require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies.

According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, Nashville joined cities including Bloomington, Austin, Tucson and St. Louis in enacting such a law.

You can add Dallas to that list.

Since 2002, the city of Dallas has required contractors to have nondiscrimination policies that include both sexual orientation and gender identity. The problem is, no one seems to be aware of this requirement, and it’s unclear whether it’s ever really been enforced by the city.

From Dallas City Code, Chapter 15B, “Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance”:

All construction contracts entered into by the city involving the expenditure of more than $10,000 of city funds and all competitively bid contracts for the procurement of goods and services involving an expenditure of more than $50,000 of city funds must incorporate an equal employment opportunity clause, which reads as follows:

(1)  The contractor shall not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, age, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin.  The contractor shall take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to race, age, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin.

The chapter goes on to say that the policy must be posted in conspicuous places and included in advertisements seeking employees. Contractors must file reports and demonstrate to the city manager that they’re complying with the chapter. If contractors fail to comply, contracts can be revoked and they can be declared ineligible for future contracts with the city. Finally, the chapter says, “Nothing in the equal opportunity clause requires that employee benefits be provided to an employee for the benefit of the employee’s domestic partner.”

“Sexual orientation,” which includes gender identity under the definition, was added to this chapter of Dallas City Code in 2002, when the council passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination citywide in employment, housing and public accommodations. The amendments to Chapter 15B, along with the nondiscrimination ordinance, are listed under Item No. 54 on the agenda for the council’s meeting on May 8, 2002.

But no one I’ve talked to in my four years at the Voice has ever mentioned this requirement. In fact, LGBT groups have sometimes asked candidates on endorsement questionnaires whether they’d support a proposal to add such a requirement for contractors. And city council members whom I’ve asked about the chapter have admitted they weren’t aware of it.

To me, this is yet another example of why the city of Dallas needs a council-appointed LGBT human relations commission, similar to those in Austin, Fort Worth and many other cities throughout the U.S.

Such a commission would give the LGBT community an institutional backbone. There simply isn’t enough continuity, or institutional knowledge, in the LGBT activist community. And important gains like this one are all but forgotten, let alone followed through with.

The idea of an LGBT human relations commission has been talked about mostly in the context of the nondiscrimination ordinance, given that the city has never prosecuted a complaint in nine years. If people aren’t satisfied with the city’s resolution of their complaint, they could appeal to the commission.

But that’s just the beginning of what an LGBT human relations commission could do. A council-appointed commission would ensure the proper implementation of all sections of City Code that apply to the LGBT community, including things like the contractor requirement. Above all, though, a commission could accomplish a ton of education and outreach, and serve as a liaison between council members and the community.

For my cover story on the mayor’s race in this week’s issue of Dallas Voice, I asked all three major candidates if they would support establishing an LGBT human relations commission. Of the three candidates, only David Kunkle said he supports the idea.

The city is in the process of eliminating commissions in the face of budget shortfalls. Even though commissions are made up of volunteers appointed by the council, the city provides support staff.

But if there’s one new commission the city should consider, it’s an LGBT human relations commission. And if there’s one thing that the LGBT community in Dallas should push for, it’s an LGBT human relations commission. That’s because a commission, by its very nature, could help address all of the other issues.

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