Austin became the 3rd city in Texas and the 71st municipality in the country to add gender identity as a protected class to its human rights ordinance. On Thursday, June 10, 2004 by a unanimous vote, Austin?s City council voted to amend the Austin City Human Rights Ordinance to include gender identity as a protected class in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Austin joins Dallas and El Paso as the only cities in Texas to extend equal rights to its Transgendered citizens. Houston added gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy in public employment in July of 2001.Through the tireless efforts of the Austin Human Rights Commission and local transgender advocates, the ordinance will finally give one of the city?s most marginalized groups the civil rights that most people have and take for granted. Austin Dullnig, one of the key players in Human Rights Commission said, ?We are happy that the Austin City Council has accepted our recommendations which include adding Gender Identity as a protected class in the Austin Hunan Rights Ordinance. This is a vital step to help ensure human rights for all of the citizens of Austin?
The transgender community in Austin has quietly been working for several years on effecting these changes to the ordinance as well as other issues key to Transgendered citizens such as hate crimes, insurance and health care. Lisa Cameron of Transgender Advocates of Central Texas commented on the amendment. ?We?ve worked long and hard to achieve this victory. This is one small step for our community; we have a long way to go to gain equality across the board. We are absolutely thrilled with the City of Austin for taking this first step.?
Members of the Texas LGBT community expressed their support of this step. Randall Ellis, Executive Director of LGRL, the state-wide LGBT rights organization said, ?Today, the Austin City Council has taken an important step forward to end discrimination against Transgendered Texans. LGRL applauds the work done by Transgender Advocates of Central Texas to ensure the passage of this important ordinance.?
Transgendered people have endured years of discrimination based on their perceived gender identity, losing their jobs, homes and most important, their dignity. This ordinance will help these people keep their jobs, homes and dignity allowing them to continue to be productive members of Austin society.
Transgender Advocates of Central Texas applauds the City Council and the Austin Human Rights Commission in helping to keep Austin a place where diversity is welcome and encouraged. For more information contact TACT at 512-448-6354.