Commissioners to vote on trans protections Tuesday; LGBT community urged to attend

Posted on 22 Apr 2011 at 3:49pm
Clay Jenkins

In an unexpected but welcome development for LGBT advocates, the Dallas County Commissioners Court is slated to vote next week on whether to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Item 23 on the Commissioners Court’s formal agenda for its regular meeting Tuesday is a Court Order that would add “transgender, gender identity and gender expression” to the nondiscrimination policy.

In March, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to add sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy, but left out transgender protections for the county’s 7,000 workers. Since then, LGBT advocates have called on commissioners to go back and make the policy fully inclusive — speaking at the court’s meetings and flooding them with emails and letters.

In response, County Judge Clay Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about the impact of adding transgender protections to the policy. Jenkins said Friday afternoon he’s “confident” the amendment will pass on Tuesday.

“I got a verbal back from the DA today that they could sign off that this was not going to be unduly burdensome on the taxpayers or anything, so we’re taking a swing at it,” Jenkins said. “I feel good that it’s the right thing to do and that the majority of the court will support it. “

Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, both support adding transgender protections. However, they’ve been struggling to find the third vote needed to get the amendment passed.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, the third member of the court’s Democratic majority, has said he’s undecided on the issue. And Republican Commissioner Maurine Dickey, once thought to be a possible “yes” vote, said this week she opposes the amendment and compared transgender people to people who are overweight.

Jenkins declined to discuss how he believes individual commissioners will vote, but he encouraged people from the LGBT community to attend their meeting to show their support.

“One thing you could do to help me out on this, is show up en masse,” Jenkins said. “I figure people who don’t want this to pass will probably show up, so it would be nice if we had equal representation there.”

Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas who’s been coordinating the LGBT community’s advocacy on the issue, called the item’s unexpected appearance on Tuesday’s agenda “outstanding news.”

“It’s what we’ve asked for,” McDonnell said. “It’s what the transgender community has asked for. It’s what the entire LGBT community has been asking for for the last four-and-a-half-weeks.”

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he was notified earlier today about Tuesday’s scheduled vote by Jenkins’ office.

“I don’t think they would put it up there without it [a third vote], because I think that would be embarrassing to them,” Narvaez said. But he added, “We can’t be overexcited until things happen on Tuesday.”

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the county administration building, 411 Elm St.

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