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'Gender identity' enshrined by Florida city law
Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 01/30/2008 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
A Florida city has added itself to the ranks of governments that have decided to ban discrimination based on the “inner sense of being a specific gender … with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
The council in Gainesville this week narrowly voted to approve the gender identity protection plan that already is causing an uproar in Montgomery County, Md., where its implementation is being challenged by a citizens’ group over the apparent open-door attitude the ordinance has regarding public facilities including lockerrooms, showers and restrooms.
The ordinance Gainesville approved allows specific exceptions for “public accommodations” where “being seen fully unclothed is unavoidable,” but still earned the displeasure of a majority of those who attended the second public hearing, at which the plan was formally adopted.
The ordinance adds gender identity as a category of people provided special protections from discrimination. Already the city banned discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation and gender.
Commissioner Ed Braddy moved to deny the ordinance, and was joined by Commissioner Rick Bryant.
“When you boil it down the issue is that because of some people who have some sort of emotional or psychological issue, others have to change,” Braddy said, according to a report in the Gainesville Sun.
But a majority of the panel approved the new law, which affects the city laws governing the Human Rights Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity rules, Equal Access to Places of Public Accommodation, Fair Housing and Equal Credit Opportunity provisions.
“Gender identity, as defined in the proposed ordinance, means ‘an inner sense of being a specific gender, or the expression of a gender identity by verbal statement, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth,’” the city said.
“The general procedures and prohibitions … would apply to discrimination on the basis of gender identity as it would to discrimination on the basis of other protected classes,” the city continued.
The exceptions would be allowed for “certain shared facilities” such as “a shared shower or dressing facility.”
“Denial of access to such facilities would be permitted if the covered entity provided reasonable access to adequate facilities that are not inconsistent with the person’s gender identity, as established with the entity at the time of initial access, or upon notification to the entity that the individual has undergone or is undergoing gender transition…”
David Caton, who leads the Florida Family Association, told WND that such moves are “outrageous.”
He said his organization has been protesting such plans for some time, pointing out that ordinances like this essentially could be argued before a judge to protect “the right of a person to dress one day as a man, and another day as a woman.”
“It’s absolutely atrocious for our children to have to deal with that kind of social engineering,” he said.
“The worst part of it is when they get one day in the press, and the government gives its stamp of approval to do all kinds of weird things …. Our biggest obligation is saying it’s not ok,” he said.
The Sun reported a “majority” of the standing-room-only crowd at the council meeting opposed the ordinance. In the end Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan was joined by commissioners Craig Lowe, Jeanna Mastrodicasa and Jack Donovan to approve the new rule.
Commissioner Scherwin Henry had supported the law on the first reading, but changed and opposed it on final reading.
The newspaper said several other locations in Florida, including Key West, West Palm Beach and Miami Beach, already have protections for those with “gender identity” issues.
In Montgomery County, Md., there already has been a “trial run” of its new law that arguably would allow coed locker rooms in public accommodations, and women aren’t pleased with the results. Montgomery County’s law contains no specific exception to public facilities such as lockerrooms, showers and restrooms.
The “trial run” happened recently when a man, wearing a skirt and makeup, walked into a women’s locker room at a health club.
“I could see his muscles, I could see his large hands. He was wearing a blue ruffled skirt that came down to above the knee,” Mary Ann Andree told WJLA-Television after the incident at the Rio Sport and Health Club in Gaithersburg.
“I was very upset, I’m still upset,” Andree told the station. “There’s a lot he could’ve seen.”
“It is becoming obvious that this bill will have very real and serious repercussions,” said Michelle Turner, a spokeswoman for the local organization that has adopted the Not My Shower slogan and is working on a petition that would have residents vote on the plan.
The group, Maryland Citizens for Responsible Government, has been critical of the suggestion since before it was given a green light by elected officials in Montgomery County and then signed into law by County Executive Ike Leggett.
Patrick Lacefield, the county’s communications director, told WND the county’s legal team has advised that the provisions of the ban on discrimination by gender would not apply to “intimate facilities.”
However, he admitted nowhere in the law is that stated.
“We do not feel that it was necessary to explicitly state that,” he said.
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