The Dallas Equal Rights Ordinance

Buckle up.


Chapter 46 of the Dallas City Code, which was passed in May 2002, makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation. The ordinance, which applies to everything from employment to housing, has defined sexual orientation as “an individual’s real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual or an individual’s real or perceived gender identity.” Which means that for 13 years, the transgender community has been protected in the city of Dallas.

But [Tuesday] morning, the council went the extra step by separating sexual orientation from gender identity. The council voted unanimously on the amendment, which now reads, “It is the policy of the city of Dallas to bring about through fair, orderly, and lawful procedures the opportunity for every person to obtain employment, access to all places of public accommodation, and housing, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

The city’s LGBT Task Force, of which council member Adam Medrano is chair, has been working on the new language for more than a year.

Despite the long-standing definition in the city code, “the transgender community believes they’re not included because the definition of gender identity is stuffed into sexual orientation,” LGBT task force member Patti Fink told the council shortly before the vote. She asked the council to pass the amendment “so it’s clear to those who live in this city [that] they have protections.”

Said Fink, with the amendment transgender individuals can “see themselves in this ordinance very clearly. This move makes that possible. They don’t have to look under one line in Section 18 for the definition of sexual orientation to make sure gender identity is included.”

Following a lengthy closed-door discussion about the amendment at Monday’s Quality of Life Committee meeting, it was unclear if there’d be much discussion among the full council. There wasn’t any, save for a few words from Medrano about the task force’s work (“we’ve been able to do a lot for equality”) and a brief hear, hear from the mayor.

“Words have meaning,” said Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center, “and your vote today will give life to those words and will be seen not only here in Dallas but around the country as support for the LGBT community.”

You can see the report produced by the LGBT Task Force here. The change was adopted unanimously by Dallas City Council. I’d like to be able to say “and they lived happily ever after”, but as you can see from the top of that post I linked to above, the forces of darkness are gathering again. Dan Patrick has already put out a statement referring to the “Dallas Bathroom Ordinance”, because why waste a perfectly good lie? I look forward to him promoting a bill in the 2017 legislative session that would require package checks at all public restrooms, because freedom and protecting women and stuff like that. As the Trib notes, several Texas cities also have similar ordinances. I don’t know if this is going to be the start of a long city-by-city assault on these ordinances or if the preferred method of attack will be a state law outlawing them, but one way or the other it’s coming. The Chron, the Dallas Observer, the Dallas Voice, and the Press have more.

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