Monday, December 8, 2014

Miami-Dade County Enacts Ordinance Prohibiting Discrimination Against Transgender People

           Invoking its power to legislate for the public safety, health, and general welfare of the county’s residents, the Miami-Dade County Commission has approved, by an 8-3 vote, an ordinance that bans discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people.
            The commission voted on December 2, 2014, for the measure, which expands the county's law that prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations to also include transgendered people and discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. The law already bans discrimination based on other categories, such as gender, religion, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

            "Transgender people need that protection because there is such gross misinformation out there," said Commissioner Sally Heyman, who supported the ordinance.

            “Gender identity” is defined in the new law as “a person's innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate).” 

            “Gender expression” is defined as “all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.”
            The new ordinance provides limited exemptions from the reach of some of its prohibition against unlawful housing practices in sales or rentals to religious organizations, housing for older persons, and lodgings operated by private clubs not in fact open to the public.
            A 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent structural racism throughout the United States was especially devastating for transgender people of color

            Miami-Dade is one of more than 20 Florida municipalities – including the cities of Gainesville, Tampa, Miami Beach, and Key West -- to enact such a measure. The Miami-Dade HIV/AIDS Partnership estimates that there are between 5,020 and 20,080 transgender people living in Miami-Dade County.

            The new ordinance will be enforced by the Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights (“Human Rights Commission”), which already has jurisdiction to hear complaints of discrimination in employment, family leave, public accommodations, credit and financing practices, and housing accommodations because of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, and source of income.

            Neither the federal nor the State of Florida’s civil rights laws extend similar protections based on gender identity or gender expression in the areas of employment, housing, or public accommodations.

            Opponents of the new law argued that the expanded law would erase the privacy barriers between men and women in bathrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms.

            The newly enacted ordinance does not contain any specific language regarding which bathroom – men’s or women’s – transgender people should be allowed to use.
            After the vote, Tony Lima, executive director of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights group SAVE, said he thinks there’s a “good chance” that opponents will try to challenge the ordinance with a ballot measure at a future county-wide election.

The text of the ordinance is available online here:

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