Monday, March 27, 2006

County extends Transgender protections

The King County Council voted 5 to 4 in favor of adding gender identity and expression to the County's nondiscrimination code earlier this afternoon. The vote fell along party lines.

"I am very pleased to be a sponsor of this legislation and guide it through to its conclusion," said King County Council Chair Larry Phillips (D) before the ordinance's final passage. "As it has been testified, this is -- perhaps -- the civil rights issue of our generation."

The proposed ordinance would amend the county's law to include Transgender people; amend the private right of action for employment and public accommodations; amend the Office of Civil Rights' subpoena power for employment and public accommodations investigations; and increase civil penalties for violations.

County law already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. A law passed by the Legislature recently extended similar protections to the entire state, but also prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

The council has been considering the extension of antidiscrimination protections to Transgender people since 2004, when it had been proposed by King County Executive Ron Sims. Councilmembers Dow Constantine, Phillips, Bob Ferguson and Larry Gossett had been early sponsors of that legislation.

"This is legislation that has originated more than a year ago," said Councilmember Ferguson (D). "So, I appreciate those who have been patient [as we have traveled] the road to progress..."

The councilmembers heard public testimony at last weeks council meeting and again this afternoon. Several orginizations joined the dozens of supporters, including lawyers, clergy, citizens, and Transgender people in calling for passage of the ordinance. Only one person, Rev. Randy Leskovar of Calvary Chapel in West Seattle, testified against it.

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