Local Steps Forward: City Ordinances, Council Leadership, and Moves to Protect Transgender Students

By Shane Stahl • January 10, 2018 • 11:54 am

Just over a week into 2018, the year is shaping up to be one where much action will be seen regarding LGBTQ non-discrimination and equality. LGBTQ and non-discrimination issues are occurring more and more frequently at local levels, such as cities, counties, and school boards. 

Freedom for All Americans is excited to celebrate these steps forward regularly – take a look at how the movement for LGBTQ equal treatment advanced in January so far:

KENTUCKY: Paducah Becomes the 9th City in Kentucky with LGBTQ Protections

On Tuesday January 9, the Paducah City Council voted 4-1 to pass LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Mayor Brandi Harless, Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Wilson, and Commissioners Sarah Stewart Holland and Allan Rhodes voted in favor of the measure. The lone holdout was Commissioner Richard Abraham, who had offered an amendment allowing broad religious exemptions for business owners. After debate, the amendment failed with another 4-1 vote.

The Paducah Fairness Ordinance makes the city the ninth in Kentucky to have established comprehensive non-discrimination protections, following Covington (2003), Danville (2014), the state capital of Frankfort (2013), Lexington (1999), Louisville (1999), Midway (2015), Morehead (2013), and the small Appalachian town of Vicco (2013).

A statewide comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance has been proposed in the Kentucky General Assembly for nearly 20 years. The measure received public hearings in 2015 and 2016, but never moved to the floor for a vote. State Senator Morgan McGarvey and State Representative Mary Lou Marzian both plan to file the bill in Kentucky’s 2018 General Assembly.

ILLINOIS: Federal Judge Will Not Suspend Palatine School District’s Transgender Inclusive Bathroom Policy

Judge Jorge Alonso refused to impose a permanent injunction against Palatine-based Township High School District 211 and their bathroom policy allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

In his 15-page opinion, Alonso said that non-discrimination statutes do apply to transgender student. The case was initially filed in 2016 by a group of parents and families calling themselves Students and Parents for Privacy, and was represented by a lawyer from the notoriously anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Earlier in 2017, a federal magistrate judge found that there was little to no evidence to prove the plaintiffs had their rights compromised; Judge Alonso concurred with this finding in his opinion.

In a letter to parents dated December 1, District 211 officials wrote, “We will vigorously defend and protect fair, compassionate, and equitable support for all students…we continue to defend our supports for transgender students at the federal level.”

According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, they are considering options regarding an appeal.  

UTAH: Salt Lake City Swears in New Council Members, Upping LGBTQ Representation in City Government

Immediately following the new year, Salt Lake City swore in two new elected council members, adding substantial LGBTQ influence to city government.

Amy Fowler, 39, and Mark Wharton, 34, join incumbent councilman Derek Kitchen as being openly gay council members. In addition, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is also openly gay, giving the city’s LGBTQ population a powerful and influential voice in local politics.

Already an LGBTQ friendly city, Salt Lake City is home to the nation’s seventh-highest LGBTQ population, and also has the highest percentage in the country of same sex couples raising children.

NEW YORK: Openly Gay Man, Corey Johnson, Elected Speaker of New York City Council

Corey Johnson, an openly gay, HIV-positive member of the New York City Council, was voted in as Speaker of Council this week by a vote of 48-1, the first openly gay man to serve as NYC Council Speaker.

Johnson follows Christine Quinn, the first ever openly gay Speaker of Council, elected in 2006. In 2013, Johnson ran for and won Quinn’s council seat, after she left to make a mayoral bid.

As a council member, Johnson has served on many committees, including Finance, General Welfare, Developmental Disability, and Drug Abuse; he is also the former chair of the LGBT Caucus. In 2014, he introduced legislation to remove the surgical requirement for transgender people to be able to correct their birth certificates; the law went into effect in January 2015.

Johnson has vowed to collaborate with Mayor de Blasio, but stated he is not afraid to work independently to push through bills over the mayor’s veto. One main point of contention is expected to be how money is allocated to the city’s MTA service.

Johnson’s council district includes Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village, and parts of Flatiron, SoHo and the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

WISCONSIN: School Board in Fond du Lac Takes Steps to Protect LGBTQ Students

Monday night, January 8, the Fond du Lac School Board adopted nearly one dozen non-discrimination policies protecting LGBTQ students. Superintendent Jim Sebert says the policies came about after his discussions with many students in the district, and worked closely with a company that has helped pass similar protections in over 200 school districts nationwide.

Sebert says the policies are completely comprehensive in protecting sexual orientation and gender identity.  District Health and Safety Program Coordinator Marian Sheridan also worked with LGBTQ students this past year to help craft the language for the policies.

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