Pinellas County might expand transgender rights

08/09/13 Janelle Irwin
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An anti-discrimination ordinance in Pinellas County means that men and women can’t be denied certain rights based on their sex. On August 20, County Commissioners will hear from the public about whether to expand that ordinance to include transgender individuals.

The change to the county’s ordinance would simply replace the word ‘sex’ with ‘gender.’ During a meeting Tuesday, Commissioner John Morroni expressed some concerns about the impact to businesses.

“When this issue came up a few years ago before your employment here with us, with your predecessor. Four of us were here then and this failed – transgender part of this. There were a lot of questions that Commissioner Welch had brought up about employment and I don’t remember all of them right now – I’ll go back to the tape and take a look at them, but I would ask you that when we come back on August 20th is that you might look at that tape from that meeting too because I don’t want those same issues to come back without them being answered this time and I think that’s one of the reasons why this might have failed back then.”

But during an interview Thursday, Commissioner Susan Latvala said she doesn’t think there will be a problem approving the change.

“I’m quite confident that there’s a consensus by our board that we don’t want any of our citizens or visitors discriminated against in any way or for any reason.”

The rule wouldn’t apply to businesses with fewer than five employees, religious institutions or public schools. It would allow transgender people to use restrooms or locker facilities appropriate for the gender with which they identify. Latvala said the ordinance would also expand some of the places where discrimination is banned.

“One of the other tweaks to the ordinance was included accommodations, rentals or employment. So, if someone applies for a job or attempts to rent a hotel room or an apartment or a house and are discriminated against than they would have the right to complain to the human rights office – it would be investigated.”

A business found in violation of the anti-discrimination ordinance would be forced to reverse whatever action was proven discriminatory.

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