Questions linger over DART board's vote Tuesday night on transgender protections

Posted on 23 Jun 2010 at 11:40am
DART board member Ray Noah, left, and agency general counsel Hyattye Simmons look on during last night's meeting. Noah is the board member who inserted the one-word amendment that would have gutted the proposal. And Simmons has been accused of engineering the plan.
DART board member Ray Noah, left, and agency general counsel Hyattye Simmons look on Tuesday night. Noah is the board member who proposed a one-word amendment last week that would have gutted the transgender protections. And Simmons may have been a co-conspirator.

We have phone calls and e-mails in to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons seeking clarification and confirmation about what exactly the agency’s Board of Directors approved last night with regard to transgender protections.

There are two conflicting interpretations of what happened during the meeting. We’ll explain after the jump.

The first interpretation holds that the board formally stated its intent to protect employees from discrimination based on both gender identity and gender expression, but left the wording of the new nondiscrimination policy open. According to this interpretation, the board would start from scratch in drafting the precise language for the new policy.

The second interpretation is that the board approved the new policy as written after removing a one-word amendment that would have gutted the proposal. This interpretation is the one held by DART board member Claude Williams, whom I spoke with this morning.

“We approved the policy without the word ‘except,’” Williams said. “However, we plan on going back and revisiting the policy statement to get a stronger statement.”

But William Tsao, the board member who made last night’s motion, reportedly is saying that his goal was merely to state the board’s intent and to start over on language. I haven’t talked to Tsao, but officials at Resource Center Dallas have.

“By introducing the resolution that he did, we’re essentially starting over,” said Cece Cox, associate executive director at the Resource Center.

Cox added that this second interpretation is more desirable, because it would allow LGBT advocates to address what they still see as problematic language in the policy.

“Resource Center’s position is that even with the word ‘except’ taken out, it doesn’t give protections based on gender identity and gender expression,” Cox said.

Here is the policy with the word “except” crossed out:

“… DART is committed to hiring, promoting and retaining the best qualified persons in all positions and, except to the extent permitted by federal and/or Texas law, DART will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other characteristic protected by law. …”

If you watch at the end of our video below, Tsao’s motion was to state the board’s intent of not discriminating based on gender identity or gender expression. However, board chair William Velasco then indicates that the board is voting on “the blue sheet.” I haven’t seen the “blue sheet,” but it reportedly contains the nondiscrimination policy minus the word “except.” The question is, was Velasco’s comment a legitimate amendment to Tsao’s motion?

Either way, the vote was a step in the right direction.

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