Tansgendered persons are the latest group protected against discrimination in Tampa
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11/19/09 Joshua Lee Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

Transgender individuals can now count themselves among the classes protected by Tampa’s human rights ordinance. Today City Council updated the ordinance on a 5 to 1 vote, despite opposition from some religious groups.

Equality advocates consider today’s decision a victory for human rights. Tabias Packer with Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT rights organization, applauded the decision.

Dozens of members of local churches and human rights organizations packed City Hall this morning. Members of churches who opposed the ordinance consider transgender identification an immoral choice that might allow cross-dressing men to enter the ladies room. But council Chair Thomas Scott said that this ordinance would not allow for such behavior.

Council member Charlie Miranda was the only one to oppose the ordinance, not understanding gender identity to be a permanent decision.

David Caton with the Florida Family Association also claimed that the ordinance didn’t consider the rights of those who might have to work with transgender individuals.

Gwen Pivas from Zephyrhills echoed much of the moral outrage coming from several of the Christian churches.

Many transgender individuals say they feel trapped in their situation, feeling naturally identified as another gender. On the other hand Tony Smart, a pastor at Victory Baptist Church, argued that such transgender lifestyles are a choice.

Council member John Dingfelder said that some fears churchgoers have about transgender individuals are red herrings.

Council member Mary Mulhern quoted the Declaration of Independence where it says that all men are created equal.

Mike Pheneger represented the ACLU, defending the constitutional right of freedom of expression.

Michael Keefe is the director of the Florida Organization for Gender Equality. He is a transgender person who supports the ordinance, and said that some transgender deaths are due to neglect.

Council chair Thomas Scott emphasized that the ordinance did not cover transvestites, but only those undergoing a permanent gender transition. He also said that he wouldn’t be intimidated by reminders from the public that his decision might carry political consequences. Scott said he isn’t concerned about getting votes for reelection; the only vote he is concerned about is God’s vote.

Tommorrow is the 11th annual Transgendered Day of Remembrance. Vigils will be held to memorialize 100 transgendered people who died violent deaths.

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