Change approved with little debate; full board votes on proposal in June
Less than three months after Dallas Area Rapid Transit was publicly accused of discriminating against a transgender bus driver, a committee of the board of directors voted Tuesday, May 11, to add gender identity to the agency’s employment nondiscrimination policy.
DART’s Economic Opportunity and Diversity Committee unanimously approved the proposal, which now proceeds to the full board for a final vote in June.
"I think there’s little need to debate this," said committee member John Danish of Irving, who serves as vice president of the board. "This is just something that makes a lot of common sense. … We don’t discriminate against anyone for any reason."
Michael Robinson, who was among a handful of LGBT activists who attended Tuesday’s committee meeting, said he was "shocked" that there wasn’t more opposition to the proposal.
A member of the direct action group GetEQUAL, Robinson said he’s been preparing to organize protests if DART doesn’t approve the new policy.
"I’m extremely surprised that it went that smoothly," Robinson said.
Kriss Ann Gamez, DART’s of diversity director and EEO, told the committee the policy change is needed to maintain best practices and discourage negative practices, as well as to remain competitive.
DART’s nondiscrimination policy has included sexual orientation since 1995.
Five cities in Texas include gender identity in their employment nondiscrimination policies, as does the Capital Metro transit agency in Austin, Gamez told the committee. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 72 percent of the 590 private companies rated by the gay-rights group this year include gender identity or gender expression in their nondiscrimination policies.
Gamez said DART’s position is that adding gender identity to the nondiscrimination policy will also cover gender expression, which is listed separately by some employers.
LGBT activists called on DART to add trans protections in the wake of Dallas Voice articles about the agency’s decision last year to challenge the bus driver’s gender marker-change in family court. A judge overturned the gender marker change before DART could intervene in the case.
The employee, whose name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, also alleges that DART supervisors have at various times told her she couldn’t wear a dress, couldn’t have long hair and couldn’t use women’s restrooms. The employee, who’s been with DART and its predecessor for 25 years, began transitioning in 2003 and had sex reassignment surgery about three years ago.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.