In 2003, Monroe County and the city of Key West passed laws banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Within five years, similar measures passed in Miami Beach, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Last Tuesday, Alachua County commissioners in North Florida voted 4-0 to protect transgender people.
And the same day, a similar proposal died in Miami-Dade County, causing gay activists to point fingers and figure out what to do next.
Were going to meet with commissioners again to make sure the support is there, and that the education is there, as well, said Maria Barth, deputy director of SAVE Dade, the countys leading LGBT rights group. Then were going to continue with our ground game, our advocacy work within the county. Our staff is completely committed to passing this ordinance.
Miami-Dade County where singer and Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant led a 1977 repeal of the countys original gay-rights protection ordinance again banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1998. Voters upheld the law in 2002. This year, SAVE Dade asked commissioners to protect gender expression and identity.
Gender expression has to do with a persons behavior or outward appearance as masculine or feminine. It can and commonly does differ from the stereotypes and gender roles associated with the biological sex a person is assigned by doctors at birth, Barth said. Gender identity is a psychological trait that has to do with how a person feels whether a person feels like a man or a woman, despite the biological sex he or she was assigned at birth.
Gay activists nationally are seeking to protect transgender people from workplace, housing and other discrimination, and to provide physical and mental healthcare benefits for people in gender transition.
Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the United States largest LGBT rights organization.
In May, Miami-Dade commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Audrey Edmonson filed a trans-inclusive amendment to the countys existing gay-rights law, co-sponsored by Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Sally Heyman, that would have banned discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or expression.
The amendment passed 11-1 on first reading with Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell voting no. The proposal then went to the commissions Health and Social Services Committee, composed of Chairwoman Edmonson, Bell, and Commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Jean Monestime and Javier D. Souto.
Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the statewide Christian Family Coalition, called the gender proposal harmful and unnecessary.
Verdugo said the law would create a hostile working environment for many individuals who simply dont agree with these policies."
What about the other people and their feelings? Verdugo said, Youve got to remember the golden rule.
The Christian Family Coalition spent weeks lobbying health committee members, especially Diaz and Monestime, in person, by phone and email.