NOT THE SAME | Transgender activist Kelli Ann Busey addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court, asking that specific protections for trans employees be added to the county’s policy. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates urge Commissioners Court to add protections for transgender Dallas County employees to nondiscrimination ordinance

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Three members of the LGBT community spoke Tuesday morning, April 5, during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s regular meeting, calling on the court to add protections for transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Transgender activist Kelli Ann Busey commended the court for adding sexual orientation to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 employees a few weeks ago. But she said the court did not go far enough with that effort.

“Transgender people are not the same as gay people,” Busey said. “We need to be protected differently.”

Busey said many transgender people are homeless after transitioning, often because of discrimination against them in the workplace.

“Without workplace protections, we cannot live up to our potential,” she said.

Dave Guy-Gainer spoke on behalf of Equality Texas. He told the commissioners about a poll conducted by Glengariff Group that sampled registered voters in Texas on 12 rights as they pertain to the LGBT community.

“According to the poll, 70 percent of all Texas voters support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination for transgender citizens,” he said.

Gainer said that over the past three election cycles, Dallas County has voted for progressive government. He called Dallas County a leader for other jurisdictions across the area as well as nationally.

Pam Curry, who is transgender, told the court she is a former part-time Dallas County employee.

“I was bothered when the non-discrimination policy was passed and I was not included,” Curry said, going on to explain the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I urge the court to move quickly to correct the oversight,” she said.

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, spoke at the Commissioners Court meeting the previous week and by the court’s rules is barred from speaking again for a month. But McDonnell promised to keep the issue before the court by lining up speakers for each weekly meeting.

McDonnell also forwarded to Dallas Voice a copy of an email he received from County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“I believe in equality for all,” Jenkins wrote to McDonnell. “The new non-discrimination language was formulated by the county’s human resources department at my request and was intended to prohibit discrimination against anyone. Our HR director informs me that her interpretation of sexual orientation includes gender identity and gender expression.  Therefore, under our current policy, discrimination will not be tolerated.

“Many people share your concern that the policy needs to be changed to specifically state that gender identity and expression are included. I have requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s office about adding identity language to the county code and its overall impact; the first step in a proposed change,” Jenkins wrote.

“The vote that passed last month is a positive step, which I consider a victory, and I am asking for your faith and patience as the process moves forward,” Jenkins added.

On Monday, April 4, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Commissioners Court to add transgender protections, according to President Omar Narvaez.

The resolution pointed out that “comprehensive nondiscrimination policies, including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, decrease costs for employers, decrease regrettable loss, raise productivity, and increase recruiting efficiency,” and “will serve to further the goals of economic development, marketplace competition, and improved quality of life.”

Staff writer John Wright contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.