DART board shelves trans protections

Posted on 27 May 2010 at 7:57pm
By John Wright | Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

LGBT activists call on community to contact board members, urge them to move ahead with policy change

Rafael McDonnell

DART’s board of directors this week put the brakes on a proposal to add transgender protections to the agency’s nondiscrimination policy. And LGBT advocates called on the community to contact board members in an effort to get the proposal back on track.

The DART board, acting in a work session, voted 6-5 on Tuesday, May 25, to postpone until June a decision on adding gender identity to the nondiscrimination policy, which already includes sexual orientation.

The board initially voted to approve the policy 6-5, but then one board member, Pamela Dunlop Gates of Dallas, reversed her vote and offered a substitute motion that would delay the decision. The substitute motion passed 6-5.

According to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons, Gates wanted more information from DART attorneys about whether the proposed policy would stand up in court.

Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas, who attended the meeting and has been working with DART officials on the proposal, said he was "disappointed" in Tuesday’s vote.

McDonnell added that a senior staff member at DART characterized it to him as a "speed bump" or "a hiccup."

"It doesn’t mean that it’s dead," McDonnell said. "I wouldn’t even say that it means it’s on life support. It means it’s taking a little longer to go through the process. I’m disappointed in that. … I got up and told the board members, ‘I respect the fact that you have questions, here’s my phone number.’"

The proposal, which came about after the agency was accused of discriminating against a transgender bus driver, had already cleared a board committee unanimously.

If the board had approved the transgender protections on Tuesday, they would have gone to a final vote June 15.

Now, the proposal will be revisited in a work session June 15, with a possible final vote June 22, according to Lyons.

"Everything essentially moves one more meeting," Lyons said. 

"The main question had to do with our ability to defend the policy if it were challenged in court," Lyons added. "The questions all were around additional information, and there was a commitment to bring it back to the next meeting on [June] 15."

McDonnell said Dunlop Gates, the board member who switched her vote, asked DART attorneys to clarify definitions for "gender identity" and "genetic information," another proposed addition to the policy.

Lyons said he expected the attorneys to provide board members with more information in advance of next month’s meeting.

Lyons said board members who voted to approve the trans protections Tuesday were Randall Chrisman, John Danish, William Tsao, Tracey Whitaker and Claude Williams.

Those who voted to delay the decision were Dunlop Gates, Bill Velasco, Bob Strauss, Ray Noah, Mark Enoch and Loretta Ellerbe.

Two DART board members, Angel Reyes and Jerry Christian, were absent from the meeting. And two other board members, Scott Carlson and Faye Wilkins, attended the meeting but had stepped out at the time of the vote, Lyons said.

McDonnell encouraged the LGBT community to take action.

"We anticipated there would be some no votes," he said. "I think if you live in the DART service area, you need to be contact your representative on the DART board and urge them to vote for it."

Lyons said board members, who are appointed by councils in their respective cities, can be reached by calling DART’s administrative offices at 214-749-3278.   

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 28, 2010.

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