DART's attorneys weren't the only ones in on the secret plot to gut LGBT protections

Posted on 18 Jun 2010 at 5:54am

The Dallas Morning News has a story up at the very top of its website about Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s decision to gut proposed protections for transgender employees. (I just retrieved my hard copy from the driveway, and the story also appears on the front page of the Metro section.)

I could go on and on about how the DMN story gives zero credit to the Voice — which uncovered DART’s diabolical plan and broke this story exclusively over the last two days — but I won’t. I could talk about about how I’m not some fancy lawyer like DMN reporter Michael Lindenberger, who also happens to be gay, and about how I didn’t need a stinkin’ law degree to read the proposed policy and figure out what DART was trying to do. And I could point out that Lindenberger, a professional transportationologist who covers agencies like DART for a living, didn’t even attend Tuesday’s DART board meeting as far as I know. I could even accuse The DMN of pandering to the LGBT community in response to a meeting last week between editors and gay leaders who demanded that the newspaper do a better job of covering our issues. But I won’t. Starting after the jump, I’ll stick to the findings of Lindenberger’s story, which is actually half decent.

Last night we reported that DART board member Claude Williams said he was “duped” by the agency’s attorneys into voting for a policy which, as currently worded, would protect neither gay nor transgender workers against discrimination. But while Williams and other board members who support an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy may have been duped, some opponents say they knew exactly what they were doing. DART board member Ray Noah, who proposed the one-word amendment that gutted the policy, admitted that the idea was for DART to retain the ability to discriminate against transgender employees when necessary. This is truly sickening:

In an interview, Noah said he wanted DART to remain free to discriminate on the basis of gender identity in cases where it might be necessary, just like the law permits discrimination on the basis of age, religion or gender under certain circumstances.

For example, the law bars workers under 21 from working as a bartender, restricts women’s roles in combat, and allows churches to hire only workers who share their faith.

“I want DART to have the ability to do whatever it needs to do, and what it can do, to the extent permitted by law,” he said.

Two other board members, Mark Enoch and Scott Carlson, also openly oppose transgender protections:

Board members March Enoch of Rowlett and Scott Carlson of Dallas voted against changing the policy at all.

“I am one who believes you ought to hire for the job – without regard to color or sex or anything unrelated. But I just don’t think you have to put down every group that might have a complaint,” said Enoch, a former board chairman.

Carlson said he feared the policy could leave the agency vulnerable to new lawsuits, but said he wasn’t free to articulate what those vulnerabilities might because they could invite a lawsuit. He said he had other grounds for voting no – “but none that I want to talk about.”

Interestingly, and unlike the Voice, The DMN didn’t talk to any board members who support an LGBT-inclusive policy about whether they knew what effect the amendment would have.

But I think ultimately Williams’ claim that he was duped by the attorneys may be a stretch. Obviously all of this was discussed at length during the DART board’s 30-minute closed session on Tuesday night. And whether or not the closed session was illegal, it’s safe to say these folks aren’t exactly champions of open government. If you’re not willing to have contentious discussions and make tough decisions in the light of day, you should probably get your ass off the DART board.

Anyhow, one of the most alarming statements in Lindenberger’s story comes not from a board member, but from a staff member. Ben Gomez, who’s over human resources at DART and apparently supports LGBT protections, told The DMN that even if the policy is approved next week as currently worded, the agency will rewrite its employee handbook to prohibit discrimination against transgender employees. But I say no way, and this proposed solution should be totally unacceptable to the LGBT community. The bottom line is, the policy wouldn’t protect transgender employees. And not only that, but it would also rescind 15-year-old protections for gay employees. So now they’re going to write an employee handbook that goes against the policy to make everything OK? And after all this, we’re going to trust them to do that? Please.

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