DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
The Carrollton City Council this week passed an employment nondiscrimination ordinance that bans discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation and gender identity. The vote came during the council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The ordinance, approved on a 5-2 vote that basically revised the city’s existing nondiscrimination ordinance, protects city employees, contractors and political appointees. It also bans discrimination based on pregnancy and political beliefs.
A number of people attended in support of the ordinance, including Resource Center staff members Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager, and Leslie McMurray, insurance assistance coordinator. But a significant contingent of individuals opposing the ordinance also attended.
During the public comment period, one dissenter complained the new law would allow men to use women’s bathrooms. According to LGBT right advocate Cannon Brown, who attended the meeting, opponents also claimed the new ordinance would protect individuals involved in necrophilia and pedophilia.
McMurray, in her comments to the council, pointed out that equality for more groups doesn’t take away equality from others.
Place 2 Councilman Mike Hennefer voted against the ordinance, saying that it wasn’t needed because the city already does not discriminate against anyone.
Place 5 Councilman Glen Blanscet, a Baptist minister, also voted against revising the ordinance to include specific protections for LGBT people.
During the debate, Blanscet said that the city was being “asked to create a new protected class” not recognized in state and federal law, and that by doing so, the city could face “other ramifications I’m not sure we’re fully aware of.”
Blanscet warned that creating these new protected classes could “impact other people’s rights.” He compared it to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, saying that the Civil Rights Act impacted other people’s rights, but was justified in doing so, whereas the proposed revisions to Carrollton’s ordinance could impact other people’s rights in ways that were not justified.
“This particular language [recommended by a committee that had studied the issues] has an impact [on other people’s] freedom of religion and freedom of speech.” Blanscet claimed, adding that “protected classes” based on sexual orientation and gender identity were not well defined. “What is that?” he questioned. “What does that mean?”
Place 1 Councilman Steve Babick, however, argued that it was specifically because these certain classes are not protected by state and federal law that the city of Carrollton needed to include those specific protections in its ordinance.
“This is a marked moment for us,” Babick said, adding that the council “absolutely ought to” revise the ordinance to include specific protections. The council, he said, should pass the revised ordinance “to send the signal loud and clear as an employer … that we do not discriminate.”
Babick said, “A lot of people on both sides of the community, so to speak, want to make this a division point [in the city]. But let’s remember what this is all about. It’s anti-discrimination, which by its nature is not a division point; it’s an inclusion point.”
Tammye Nash contributed to this report.