As I noted yesterday, Dallas Area Rapid Transit is moving forward with a proposal to add transgender protections to its nondiscrimination policy. But does this mean the agency will no longer attempt to intervene if an employee seeks a gender-marker change? When I posed this very question to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons yesterday, he responded by acknowledging that the agency has learned lessons from the current controversy involving a transgender bus driver, including things related to uniforms and restroom use. But Lyons added that when it comes to the issue of gender-marker changes, DART is standing its ground.
“We’ve got a current legal opinion that provides direction in this case, and we haven’t seen anything to change that,” he said. “I wouldn’t anticipate anything different than what was done previously absent new direction.”
In other words, DART attorneys still believe that the 1999 case of Littleton v. Prange established a precedent that prohibits gender-marker changes, even though LGBT legal experts and many Dallas county judges disagree. Not only that, DART apparently still believes it’s the agency’s proper role to get involved in employees’ private legal affairs when the agency believes judges have erred. This sure seems like a slippery slope. For example, if an employee is going through a divorce, and DART doesn’t agree with a judge’s decision about child support or visitation, would the agency try to challenge it?
I also asked Lyons yesterday whether DART plans to consider adding domestic partner benefits. Lyons has said previously that he’s not aware of any current proposal to do so, and he didn’t have additional information when we spoke yesterday. Cece Cox and Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas, who met with DART officials Tuesday, said they also asked about DP benefits. Cox and McDonnell told me it’s DART’s position that domestic partner benefits are prohibited by Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which also states that, “This state or any political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” Again, not everyone shares DART’s legal opinion about this, and the cities of Dallas, Austin and El Paso all provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised DART’s attorneys haven’t intervened and tried to challenge these cities’ DP benefits, because apparently they don’t have anything better to do.