Key West Passes Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law

Wed. January 8, 2003 12:00 AM by Internet Wire

Civil Rights Coalition Applauds Unanimous Vote for State's Most Inclusive Law

Tampa, FL - Civil rights activists across the state are applauding the Key West City Commission's unanimous decision to amend the local nondiscrimination law to include transgender people.

Key West's ordinance is now the most inclusive in Florida, and the first in the state to specifically protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and lending.

"Key West's slogan is 'One Human Family,' " said Scott Fraser, Director of the Key West Gay & Lesbian Community Center. "The City Commission demonstrated that those words are not hollow. All Floridians can take pride in this step and we are eager for other Florida cities to follow suit."

Across the country, a growing number of municipalities have added similar language making Key West the 54th jurisdiction to expand its law.

Janice Carney, Executive Director of the Florida Gender Equality Project (FORGE), applauded the new law as an historic breakthrough in the struggle for transgender equality in Florida.

"The Key West City Council was very courageous in recognizing the humanity of transgender people," said Carney. "When we first contacted the Key West Community Center about the possibility of adding transgender protections, we were thrilled with the overwhelming support we received from the entire Key West community."

The new law was spearheaded by a coalition of local and state human rights organizations including the Key West Community Center, FORGE and Equality Florida, a statewide social justice organization committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, class and gender. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) also supported the bill and provided assistance to local activists.

Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida's Southern Regional Director, predicted that at least three other Florida communities may amend their laws in 2003 to provide similar protections for transgender people.

"Efforts to protect transgender people are currently underway in St. Petersburg, Monroe County and Seminole," noted Pollitzer. "Like the rest of the country, Florida is waking up to the reality that transgender people are part of our communities and must be included in basic human rights laws." In the past year alone, 14 localities have added similar protections, including: Allentown, Erie County, New Hope, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Cook County and Decatur, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; New York City and Buffalo, New York; Salem, Oregon; and Tacoma, Washington. New Jersey and Pennsylvania also passed statewide laws protecting transgender students and transgender victims of hate violence, respectively. Although Key West is the first city in Florida to amend its human rights law to add gender identity or expression, it is not the first in the state to recognize the need to protect transgender people from discrimination. In 2000, Wilton Manors passed a law requiring all business that contract with the city to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies.

Key West amended its law to add the phrase "gender identity or expression." This language protects not only transgender people, but anyone who suffers discrimination because they do not fit traditional gender stereotypes.

News, photos provided by Internet Wire.