More cities are considering adding
transgender protections in the wake of a critical vote in Kalamazoo,
On November 3, Kalamazoo voters
disagreed with opponents of the ordinance that makes it illegal to
discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity
(transgender protections) in the areas of employment, housing and
public accommodations. The group Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No to
Special Rights, backed by the anti-gay Christian group American
Family Association (AFA), organized to put the policy up for a vote
after lawmakers expanded it to include transgender protections.
In cities throughout the country
opponents have vociferously attacked laws that protect gay men and
lesbians from discrimination on the local level. But the loudest
howls heard this year came when lawmakers included transgender
In Anchorage, Alaska hundreds of people
piled into City Hall at the behest of socially conservative leaders
to testify against a gay protections bill in June. The debate drew
hundreds on both sides to protest. Roiled gay rights foes threatened
to put the measure up for a vote if approved. In the end, Republican
Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed the bill.
November's Kalamazoo victory built on
another decisive win in another small town in Florida.
Voters in the college town of
Gainesville spurned an initiative that would have repealed the city's
decade-old gay protections ordinance in March. The ordinance was put
up for a vote after city leaders added transgender protections to the
law. Members of Citizens for Good Public Policy argued that the
gender clause allows men to enter women's restrooms, endangering
women and children. Alex Harper, a 21-year-old West Palm Beach
student, told the AP that he viewed the restroom issue as
Momentum continued this week when the
city of Fort Worth, Texas approved adding gender identity to the
city's list of protected classes. And in Utah, Salt Lake City
leaders unanimously approved a protections bill that includes sexual
orientation and gender identity. Both cities acted on Tuesday.
The wins heartened gay rights activists
who have gained little traction in such red meat states. Salt Lake
City's measure was unanimously approved by council members after the
Mormon Church endorsed the proposal – the first time the church has
publicly backed gay rights.
At least two more cities are
considering expanding their policies to include transgender
In Cleveland, gay rights group Ask
Cleveland is lobbying to win approval of such a measure. The
group delivered more than 2,500 postcards supporting an expanded law
to council members on Monday. The bill is sponsored by openly gay,
outgoing Council member Joe Santiago.
City leaders are expected to vote on
the bill later this month. But Ask Cleveland spokesman David
Caldwell would not comment on its chances of passage.
“We're working hard to earn the votes
necessary to ensure victory,” Caldwell said. Most councilors were
undecided but willing to meet with the group, he said.
council divides on gay rights mostly along racial lines. A recently
approved gay-inclusive domestic partnership law was voted down by
most of the chamber's African-American members. In the campaign to
approve the law, a group of mostly Black ministers rallied to oppose
its passage, saying it violates Ohio's 2004 voter-approved gay
Ask Cleveland said it was focusing its
lobbying efforts on members who voted against the registry.
In Tampa, Florida, passage appears more
certain, but opponents have only just begun to mobilize. A November
5 first reading of a transgender protections bill won unanimous
approval after Council member Joseph Caetano altered his original no
vote. Final passage is expected during a November 19th
Shortly after leaders acted on the
measure, the conservative group Christian Issues Council alerted
members to take action against the measure.
“Please stop this assault on
Christian values!” Terry Kemple wrote in an email. “If the City
Council hears a loud voice from the Church, they'll think twice and
we may actually defeat this proposal. If they don't hear from us, be
ready to lose a few more of the religious freedoms our country was
established to protect.”
The group says it opposes the
legislation because “people who dress like the opposite sex will be
allowed into the restroom of the gender they feel like today” and
“special privileges will be granted because of a person's aberrant
Gay groups lobbying for the measure
Tampa Bay, Equality
Florida and Organizations
United Together (OUT).
“In 38 states it's legal to fire
otherwise qualified employees because of their gender identity or
expression,” R. Zeke Fread, director of Pride Tampa Bay, said in an
“By adding gender identity and
expression [to the list of protected classes] our council members are
sending a clear and strong message that discrimination in the
workplace, accommodations and housing is not acceptable in our city,”