Gender identity and expression added to Orlando’s anti-discrimination ordinance

Orlando – Changes to Chapter 57 the City of Orlando’s ordinance for protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations—were unanimously adopted Aug. 11 to now include protections for the transgender community.

“Society in general has changed, in that people are much more inclusive and much more accepting of the LGBT community,” said Gina Duncan, transgender inclusion director of Equality Florida.”But secondly, which is what has really driven us, is that the transgender community has also stepped up and is visible, so that people see and are more aware of transgender people.”

The fight for the protections began 12 years ago, in 2002 when the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (OADO) Committee, first brought attention to the issue. At the Aug. 11 meeting, eight people attended to show support for the revisions, including members of the faculty from Rollins College, OADO, and also the Orlando chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Several spoke and showed their support, along with Duncan, who also presented the City Council with a Transgender Pride flag.

“It’s a public message about the values of the city and what the city considers to be important and the importance of valuing and welcoming the transgender community,” said Kathryn Norsworthy, a faculty member at Rollins College and also a member of OADA. “When we started this work back in 2002, the level of opposition was staggering. We had to have three very long meetings with the Human Relations Board and then with the City Council. Basically we had people outside picketing and the halls were filled with people from the outside to testify against the ordinance. We heard a lot of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.”

Though the changes were introduced years back, it has been leaders of the transgender community coming forward, like Duncan, who have helped push to finalize the revisions and make sure they were included into the ordinance.

“This is huge for the City of Orlando,” said Pat Padilla, a member of PFLAG Orlando/Central Florida and also OADA member since Chapter 57. “We were here for probably 10 hours or more back when Chapter 57 took place, and today you can see the difference—it’s amazing. The city has come a long, long way.”

Duncan said now transgender individuals or those who don’t identify with either gender can be protected from discrimination in the workplace. But education will be the next step, letting these individuals know they have protections and if they are discriminated against in the workplace that there will be consequences and they can go to someone.

“We can stand in solidarity from the LGB part of the community and the transgender part to move forward, as we have today, with little to no opposition with this addition to Chapter 57,” said Norsworthy. “Something that should have happened 12 years ago.”

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