Dallas amends anti-discrimination law to define gender identity

Dallas city leaders voted unanimously to change language of an anti-discrimination ordinance so that gender identity is clearly defined.

- Dallas city leaders voted unanimously to change language of an anti-discrimination ordinance so that gender identity is clearly defined.

The amendment, which was approved Tuesday morning, clarifies the city’s existing ordinance to explicitly ban discrimination against transgender people living and working in Dallas.

Sexual orientation is already covered by the city’s anti-discrimination law, which was first enacted in 2002. But supporters of the amendment said gender identity is different and there needed to be some clarification. Dallas' LGBT Task Force had worked on the revised wording for about a year.

The ordinance allows men who identify themselves as women to use women's restrooms and vice versa. That applies to all Dallas businesses and even private schools.

Dallas ISD already adopted a similar ordinance in 2011.

“In the entire United States, no one has been arrested for being transgender in a bathroom because somebody was threatened by a transgender person,” said Patti Fink with Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. “It's never happened.”

The amendment was discussed at a committee level on Monday before being sent to a vote by the full council on Tuesday.

There was minimal discussion before the vote was held Tuesday morning. LGBT advocates were happy with the outcome.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said after the vote that Dallas is a diverse place and "we want to make sure everyone is protected."

A conservative state senator is calling the new protections for transgender people in Dallas a sneak attack.

Sen. Don Huffines, a tea party conservative, tweeted, “Dallas’ LGBT ordinance was rushed through with almost no public review. This is Obama & Pelosi style sneak-attack governance.”

In another tweet, he said, “Repeal Dallas’ new LGBT ordinance immediately. It was not reviewed or thoughtfully considered by the public.”

Later, he compared it to the ordinance that was struck down in Houston last week, tweeting, “Houston voters soundly said NO to men in women’s bathrooms. Dallas’ new sneak-attack LGBT ordinance must be repealed & carefully reviewed.”

Last week, voters in Houston said no to an equal-rights ordinance that had been initially approved by the city council there. Opponents there characterized it as a "bathroom ordinance" and aired ads about the danger of men claiming to be women being able to use women's bathrooms and potentially harm people using the facilities.

Dallas Councilman Philip Kingston fired back, “Went through a year of public discussion and makes no change to the existing public policy of Dallas. Stop lying.”

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