Editorials

Protect transgender people

The march toward equality might be delayed, forced to detour or take two steps back. But it won’t be stopped. This still hasn’t dawned on Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. This week, Ms. Bondi asked the state’s Third District Court of Appeal to overrule the decisions of two judges in South Florida who found the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

But last month, no less than the U.S. Supreme Court left intact five favorable marriage rulings in three U.S. appellate courts, making clear that gay-marriage bans are pretty much non-starters.

The Editorial Board has long voiced its support for same-sex marriage and its concerns that Ms. Bondi continues to waste time and treasure on a regressive lost cause.

In Miami-Dade County, however, commissioners will have a chance to, again, show just how seriously they take welcoming and protecting residents and visitors who, like same-sex couples — and most everyone else, for that matter — want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.

Last week, a committee of the Miami-Dade Commission voted 3-1 to bring legislation to the full board to amend the county’s human-rights ordinance to include protections for “gender identity” and “gender expression.” This would include banning discrimination against transgender people.

Currently, the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public services based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, marital status, familial status or sexual orientation. The battle in the late 1990s to include that last class — sexual orientation — was hard fought, and hard won. There was vociferous opposition, some of which has returned in the latest push to make the ordinance even more inclusive.

At public hearing, the measure’s opponents were out in force. Many based their opposition on religious grounds, invoking the word of God — and Sodom and Gomorrah. Others made a mish-mash of sexual predation, pedophilia, public safety and who uses which public bathroom — equating it all with transgender people. How insulting.

This quest is not a religious fight, no matter how heartfelt the sentiment. It’s a matter of civil rights — and commissioners should treat it as such. And the fearmongers should admit whose safety is really at risk. Nov. 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s an annual observance that pays tribute to people who lost their lives through vile acts of hatred simply because of who they were or what they sought to be. Transgender citizens have been harassed, bullied and murdered. This community, too, has seen instances of such bigotry.

This week, Miami’s U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her son, Rodrigo, 28, put human faces on the issue of transgender rights. In an interview with CBS4’s Jim DeFede, they share the journey daughter Amanda took to becoming Rodrigo. Their story has no Sodom, no Gomorrah, only pride, dignity and love, something commissioners should affirm by adding transgender people to the county’s human-rights ordinance.

Day of Remembrance events

Candlelight vigil: 3 p.m., FIU, Modesto Maidique Campus, in the Graham Center Pit, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami

Remembrance: 6-8 p.m., Barry University Gato Gallery, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores

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