Will DART put protections back on track?

Posted on 10 Jun 2010 at 5:55pm
By John Wright | Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Transit agency’s board will consider proposal for a 2nd time next week


Rafael McDonnell

The board of director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit will again take up a proposal to add transgender protections to the local transit agency’s nondiscrimination policy on Tuesday, June 15.

The board voted 6-5 on May 25 to delay a decision about adding gender identity to the agency’s nondiscrimination policy, which already includes sexual orientation.

The vote came after some board members requested more information about the definition of gender identity and possible legal implications of the new policy.

The proposal to amend the policy came about in response to DART’s alleged discrimination against a transgender bus driver.

If it’s approved next Tuesday, the trans protections would go to a final vote on June 22.

"I’m hopeful," said Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas who’s been working with DART staff on the proposal.

"You never really know about these things until they happen, but I’m hopeful," McDonnell added. "We’ve done the work. The community, I believe, has made the phone calls. If somebody hasn’t made a call or written a letter, it’s not too late. Do it this weekend."

DART spokesman Morgan Lyons confirmed that the agency has received more than 100 petitions in support of the proposal to add trans protections. Groups including Change.org and Equality Texas posted petitions online in the wake of last month’s vote, which caught some advocates off guard. The proposal had previously cleared another DART committee unanimously.

If the proposal is approved, DART would become only the second transit agency in Texas to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy, after the Capital Metro transit agency in Austin. Several municipalities in Texas, including both Dallas and Fort Worth, include gender identity in nondiscrimination ordinances.

McDonnell said Resource Center has already conducted pilot diversity training on gender identity for about 20 senior staff members at DART, including officials from the agency’s human resources department.

"Assuming that everything goes as we think it will, it will be the HR people who are charged with carrying it out," McDonnell said of the new policy.

"It’s the staff people who will have to answer the board’s questions," he added. "This [the training] will give them additional information to provide accurate answers to those questions."

Voting to delay the decision in May were DART board members Pamela Dunlop Gates, Bill Velasco, Bob Strauss, Ray Noah, Mark Enoch and Loretta Ellerbe. Dunlop Gates, Velasco and Strauss all represent the city of Dallas, which has included gender identity in a nondiscrimination ordinance for the last eight years.

Noah represents Addison, Highland Park, Richardson and University Park; Enoch represents Farmers Branch, Garland and Rowlett; and Ellerbe represents Plano. •

The offices of DART board members can be reached by calling 214-749-3278. There will be no opportunity for public comment before the board’s vote during next week’s meeting, set for 4:30 p.m. in Conference Room C at DART headquarters, at 1401 Pacific Ave. in Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 11, 2010.

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