In a setback for LGBT advocates, Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey said today that she opposes adding transgender protections to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.
Dickey, a Republican who represents part of Oak Lawn, was considered a possible third vote in favor of adding gender identity/expression to the policy, which covers the county’s 7,000 employees. However, Dickey appeared to erase those hopes this morning, when she came out against the proposal in an interview after the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting.
Dickey told Instant Tea she believes the Commissioners Court’s recent decision to add “sexual orientation” to the policy was “overdue.” However, she said she thinks adding gender identity/expression to the policy could lead to adding “overweight people” or “people with diabetes.”
“I won’t be voting for a special protected class,” Dickey said. “You’ve got to stop somewhere. … It becomes a legal nightmare.”
In response to follow-up questions, Dickey said, “I’m not going to argue with you about it.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, both Democrats who support adding transgender protections for county employees, need a third vote to get the amendment passed. Commissioner John Wiley Price, the third member of the court’s Democratic majority, said after today’s meeting that his position on the issue is unchanged, meaning he’s still undecided.
Jenkins said he expects to receive an opinion he requested from the District Attorney’s Office about adding transgender protections by the end of this week or early next week. However, he said he won’t put the item on the court’s agenda until he has a third vote.
“I think these public speakers bringing things to our attention is helpful,” Jenkins said.
Travis Gasper, a board member for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, and Omar Narvaez, who was representing Lambda Legal, both spoke in favor of adding gender identity/expression to the policy during public comments at today’s meeting. (WATCH VIDEO ABOVE.) It marked the fourth consecutive week in which LGBT advocates have addressed the court.
Dr. Garcia, a longtime LGBT ally who served on the Dallas City Council, told Instant Tea after the meeting that she can’t make any promises but is working hard to find a third vote.
“I really feel confident,” Garcia said. “You have to hope.”
Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said later that there are a few problems with Dickey’s statements.
For one, Upton said, gender identity/expression is not a “special protected class.” All people have a sexual orientation and a gender identity, he said, just like everyone has a race.
Upton added that people with diabetes are protected against discrimination by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And he said overweight people could be added to the county policy if discrimination against them is perceived as a problem, but generally it is not. Some overweight people could be protected under disability law, but being overweight isn’t considered an identity trait like gay or transgender, Upton said.
Below is contact info for all five commissioners:
County Judge Clay Jenkins – 214-653-7949
Dist. 1 Maurine Dickey – 214-653-7552
Dist. 2 Mike Cantrell – 214-653-6100
Dist. 3 John Wiley Price – 214-653-6671
Dist. 4 Dr. Elba Garcia – 214-653-6670