Sponsors of Dallas ordinance always intended to include entire LGBT community
Was it a matter of choosing the easiest path or an oversight that led to the first official draft of Dallas’ progressive anti-discrimination ordinance omitting gender identity?
I posed the question last week, and the answer came quickly this week from the people who worked hardest to get the ordinance passed. At least one person was indignant at the mere suggestion anyone involved would ever consider not including gender identity.
It was at worst an oversight, according to several City Council members and community leaders who orchestrated the revision of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance five years ago to include sexual orientation and gender identity. No comparison should be drawn between the recently proposed exclusion of gender identity from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, of Massachusetts, and what happened in Dallas five years ago, they said.
When the Dallas ordinance was first presented to the City Council for review in 2002, transgender leaders were dismayed to see it failed to include gender identity. Their complaints led to the ordinance being revised by the city attorney’s office to include both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Gay former Dallas City Councilman John Loza, who was honored by the Dallas Transgender Alliance for his support of the local Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony, said the intent all along had been to include all members of the LGBT community. Loza was the lead sponsor of the ordinance, and he was supported in the endeavor by Mayor Laura Miller, gay former Councilman Ed Oakley, Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill and Councilwoman Elba Garza.
“Those of us at City Hall who supported the ordinance and sat down and talked about it I know we talked about including gender identity because I brought that up,” said Loza, who called to complain about the question I raised. “I made it clear that I didn’t support an ordinance that didn’t include both orientation and gender identity.”
Lill said that she believes the first draft of the ordinance must have accidentally excluded gender identity. City staff, council sponsors and community members used ordinances written by other cities as models for the Dallas ordinance, and those cities had not included gender identity, she said.
“At the time we adopted the ordinance there was a shift to begin using transgender language in ordinances,” Lill said. “That was kind of the beginning of that.”
Oakley said he recalls that people working on the ordinance were unsure about what language was needed in the ordinance.
“I think our intent was to cover it all across the board,” Oakley said. “The problem was how do we get there?”
Maria Rubio, who was then president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said that she and other community representatives were surprised to discover the first draft excluded gender identity.
“I know we didn’t deliberately leave it out, and I know we made a big stink about it when we saw that it wasn’t there,” Rubio said. “We wanted to make sure it got in there and if it didn’t we were going to have a fight on our hands. We told them that.”
Roger Wedell, who was then vice president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said he doesn’t recall anyone ever discussing the possibility that including gender identity could harm the ordinance’s chances of passage.
“There was never a conversation along the lines of excluding gender identity,” Wedell said. “There was a never a concern about not getting it passed if we put that in there.”
The end result of all of my conversations with the people whom I talked this week is the reinforcement of my view that Dallas is far more progressive than most people in the country would ever imagine.
Maybe, Congressman Frank and his progressive cohorts could learn a few things from our local political and community leaders.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 12, 2007