Sarasota transgender amendment passes first reading

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Sarasota – On Nov. 3, the City of Sarasota unanimously approved on the first reading changes to the city’s anti-discrimination law which would add rights and protections for transgender individuals.

City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell originally made a motion Sept. 2 to vote to move forward with working on a draft because the law already has protections for sexual orientation, which were added in 2000. Her motion was unanimously approved for the city attorney to draft an amendment that same day.

Ken Shelin, Equality Florida Board Chair, and Gina Duncan, Transgender Inclusion Director for Equality Florida, presented to the Sarasota City Commission a proposal to amend the anti-discrimination law to include gender identity and gender expression at the September meeting. Shelin, who is also a former Sarasota City Commissioner and Vice Mayor, is leading the initiative.

“Up until this point, people could be fired from their jobs, denied housing and denied the use of restrooms based on their gender identity and expression,” Duncan said. “This will give transgender people in the City of Sarasota those protections against discrimination.”

The language approved on its first reading was modeled after the City of Orlando’s amendment. Duncan presented to the City of Sarasota the Orlando amendment, which passed Aug. 11 with a unanimous vote, as a template for how the language for the amendment could be modeled.

The amendment will now go through a second reading on Nov. 17, where it will be voted on and possibly passed into law. If the amendment passes, it will allow transgender individuals to have equal rights and protections when it comes to housing, public accommodations and employment.

“It means a lot to the community and the fact that there is momentum in full inclusion and equality for all citizens, including transgender people,” Duncan. “I think that comes from increased education, awareness and visibility, and those are objectives that Equality Florida has been working all of the state to get accomplished. A lot of it has come from the visibility and bravery of the transgender community to step forward and be visible and help with the education, and also by major incorporations that believe that a fully inclusive and nondiscriminatory Florida is where they want to be. We have a strong ally in our corporate partners.”

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