Orlando unanimously moves forward with transgender revisions

By : Christal Hayes
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Orlando – Orlando’s City Council unanimously approved revisions to include gender identity and expression in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance during its first reading on July 28.

The ordinance — Chapter 57 — if approved, will be amended to include protections for Orlando’s transgender community and protect against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

“Our community looks to attract creative and talented people and their looking for communities just like ours,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said during the meeting. “Today we are taking another step that will allow us to amend our code to include gender identity as a protective category under our anti-discrimination policy in Chapter 57.”

The fight to add this protection for transgender citizens has been ongoing for years. In 2001, Orlando was one of the first cities to add sexual orientation protections to its human rights ordinance, but it did not approve the transgender revisions.

Gina Duncan, transgender inclusion director with Equality Florida, spoke and commended the revisions to Chapter 57. She believes these protections will be life-saving.

“By passing this protection you are truly saving lives,” Duncan said. “Within the transgender community, there will be one more person who will not lose their livelihood; there will be one more person who will not lose their ability to provide for their families and who will not decide to take their own live.”

Duncan also pointed out how personal and important these protections are for those involved.

“Being transgender is not a choice and the need to live a true and authentic life is a difficult and perilous journey,” Duncan said. “For many transgender people who go through transition on the job everything that we hold dear is at risk: our families, our friends, our jobs, our quality of life.”

Civil Rights Attorney Mary Meeks also spoke before the council to thank them for the approval and reminisce on the lengthy road that has led to this moment.

Meeks said that back in 2001, when sexual orientation was added to Orlando’s human rights ordinance, there were many opposed to protections for the LGBT community. She specifically thanked District 4 City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who has been on the council since 2001.

“It was a far more contentious issue back then,” Meeks said. “It was horribly ugly back then.”

Meeks also said that these transgender protections show how different the community and world are viewing the LGBT community and how those who are against these human rights are in the minority.

“Today, in 2014, any reasonable passionate and fair-minded person doesn’t listen to those [hateful] voices anymore. Those voices used to have an audience, and they don’t anymore, and I think that is great cause for celebration,” Meeks said.

Sheehan also addressed the protections and said how great it is to see the change in the community.

She also described the unanimity of the board as a “Kumbaya” moment.

Democratic State Rep. Joe Saunders and founder of Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee, Michael Slaymaker also spoke in support of the protections.

This meeting and these protections are just one step forward for the city. Duncan said that she believes the view towards LGBTs is changing and the smooth-sailing of this ordinance proves that.

“In the near future I truly believe that being transgender will have no more significance than being left-handed or having blue eyes because after all we were all born that way,” Duncan said.

The second reading of Chapter 57 changes is scheduled for Aug. 11.

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