DART to meet with RCD officials

Posted on 12 Mar 2010 at 12:16am
By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

To watch video of the DART meeting, go here.

Agency seems open to transgender protections, training, but continues to defend role in court case


WAITING TO SPEAK | Those who attended Tuesday’s DART meeting included six transgender women — Pamela Curry, Maeve O’Connor, Karen Chestnut, Tori Van Fleet, Kelli Busey and Nell Gaither — who are shown seated in the audience with Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials plan to meet with representatives from Resource Center Dallas to discuss amending DART’s nondiscrimination policy and implementing LGBT diversity training, according to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons.

However, DART is continuing to defend its attempt to intervene in a transgender employee’s family court case last year, a move that’s prompted an outcry from LGBT activists since being exposed by Dallas Voice three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the state district judge who presided over the case, Lynn Cherry, spoke publicly about the matter for the first time this week —  which also saw a contingent of activists attend a second consecutive DART board meeting.

In an interview with the Voice, Cherry denied allegations of unethical conduct, saying she didn’t have ex parté discussions with DART attorneys about the case before setting aside her order granting the employee a gender-marker change.

Cherry said she’s free to speak about the case after she recused herself in response to a threatening message she received recently on her home phone.

"To me that means that somebody’s made this way, way, way personal, and I think that somebody was sharing information that was not correct," Cherry said, adding that she’s "very supportive" of the LGBT community.

Cherry said she set aside the order after an associate judge informed her of a Texas appeals court ruling in Littleton v. Prange, which states that birth certificates can’t be amended unless they were inaccurate at the time they were issued.

Cherry insisted that the 2000 ruling by San Antonio’s 4th District Court of Appeals is binding, even in Dallas’ 5th District, but one LGBT legal expert disagreed.

"It wouldn’t be binding on any district except the one where it was rendered," said Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton.

Upton called the court’s ruling in Littleton an "awful" decision that took "a pretty archaic view of what sexuality’s about."

"A lot of the more recent decisions that have come out of other states have taken a much more progressive view," Upton said.

DART attorneys also cited Littleton in the motion they drafted after Cherry issued her order granting the gender marker change in March 2009. However, Cherry said she set aside the order before DART attempted to file the motion.

Regardless, Upton said he believes the only explanation for DART’s attempt to intervene in the case is "transphobia."

"It is problematic when an employer starts meddling in people’s private affairs," Upton said. "They have enough trouble running the public transportation system."

Lyons, the DART spokesman, again defended the agency’s actions — a defense also outlined in a March 2 letter from Lynda Jackson, the agency’s vice president of human resources, to representatives from Resource Center Dallas.

Lyons said the agency had no choice but to challenge Cherry’s order granting the gender-marker change after the employee presented it to DART’s HR department and requested that her personnel file be updated.

"The law just doesn’t give us that leeway," Lyons said. "It takes the decision out of our hands."

In the March 2 letter to Resource Center, DART went on to say that the agency is reviewing its diversity strategy "to shift from a compliance orientation to a more inclusive strategy of connection and collaboration assigned to our business objectives." 

In a March 9 response, Resource Center representatives called on DART to establish a "concrete timeline" for adding gender identity/expression to the agency’s nondiscrimination policy, which currently includes only sexual orientation.

The call was echoed by a handful of LGBT activists who spoke later the same day during the regular DART board meeting.

"We’re going to bring more and more people," trans activist Pamela Curry told the DART board. "We’re not going to let up. The pressure’s going to get bigger and bigger."  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 12, 2010.

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