Somewhere along the line the concept of equality has become muddled. We can certainly see that in deliberations around North America in the past week.
In Boise, ID, Helena, MT, East Aurora, IL and Canada we have seen what happens when the public chooses to consider the equality of minority people...especially those of us in minorities that most people don't know much about, don't want to know much about and generally detest anyway.
The idea that giving us equal protection under the law will endanger other people because a third set of people might take advantage of our protections is just ludicrous. It's like saying that disabled people shouldn't have protections because able-bodied people might use their set-aside parking spaces.
On Tuesday the Boise City Council unanimously passed first reading of an ordinance to prohibit discrimination against workers, tenants, and customers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
I think in a state like this, where we’re at, this has to happen city by city. It’s not going to happen in the legislature, so I really hope there is a great turnout from students today. I know that there has been in the previous two sessions but it’s just incredibly important at all different levels, from the different issues that the LGBTQ community from the housing and discrimination and everything that exists, even as far as on the Boise State campus and their faculty and what they endure as professors, this is something that needs to happen.
It’s an advocacy issue, on behalf of myself, the clients, all the people I work with every day, it’s imperative. This is what it has to look like within our state, in our demographic through the city unfortunately. I mean, we can’t even get out of committee. It doesn’t go anywhere.
--Joe Seiders, Boise State master's candidate in social work
The statewide Add the Words campaign ran into a Senate committee which refused to even consider a statewide nondiscrimination bill. In fact State Affairs Committee Chair Curt McKenzie refused to even print copies of a proposed bill.
There was a standing ovation when the ordinance was passed.
I think this ordinance is a statement that we get to make as a community to say this is the way we do business here, this is the way we treat everyone here, and I’m glad that we’re a part of this movement and I think it’s a great thing not only for our community but our state.
--Ben Quintana, City Council member
BGLAD, the Boise State queer-straight alliance, estimated that 10% of the people on campus would be affected by the ordinance.
Why would you ever justify taking away someone’s right to a home and the right to feed their family just because they have a different sexual identity or gender. That’s inhumane. Finally someone realized people have the right to a home and a job, basic fundamental rights.
--Brenna Brumfield, BGLAD
I have to say I was a little skeptical at first about whether this was really necessary, so I can’t thank you all enough that came to testify. They’re so hard on all of you to give your personal stories, but that’s what matters to us and that’s where we see that policy is not a sterile thing that we do in a room like this, it’s something that matters in our community, so I can’t say enough for those of you who were willing to do that, we just owe you so much because that’s what really makes a difference.
--Dave Bieter, Boise mayor
Second reading of the proposed ordinance is tonight. If passed a third time, it would go into effect on Juanuary 1.
Late breaking news: The action has spurred Pocatello to consider its own anti-discrimination measure. There is a call for Moscow and Lewiston to follow suit.
Events have not progressed so smoothly in Helena. Although the Helena City Commission approved first passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance unanimously on Monday night, the packed meeting was not without protesters.
It is a concern that I for instance can approach the ladies locker room over at the swimming pool and on the way in decide I'm transgender and I would have legal access to the women's locker room.
--Ken Milburn, Helena resident
Such inanity stirred three of the commissioners to add an amendment that segregates locker rooms and other places where nudity may occur by anatomical sex, regardless of gender.
Is the 16-year old at the Capital City Health Club supposed to be asking people to pull down their pants? I'm not sure how this will be enforced. It seems quite odd actually.
--Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath
The problem won't be with the transgendered community. They aren't going to hurt anybody. The problem is this gives voyeurs and men who are interested in little girls safe passageway into your bathrooms.
--Joe La Rue, Alliance Defending Freedom
And there you have it. Even our enemies judge us to be non-issues. But they insist we suffer from non-protection because some anonymous third parties may commit atrocities. What sort of society allows people to be denied protections because of the behavior of others?
Off course there was this sort of thing as well:
It tramples on the individual conscience and violates deep moral convictions.
But there was also support:
They're our sisters, our brothers, our friends, our family, our neighbors whether we know it or not. That's just the way it is and it will not change. And these are God's creation from a religious standpoint. This is not a demonic possession.
--retired Methodist minister Lyle Hamilton
I have covered the situation in East Aurora, IL, a couple of times. The school board formed an Ad Hoc committee to discuss the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students. It met twice last month, but the scheduled December meeting has been canceled out of fear for the safety of some of the committee members.
Several people said they were worried about their own safety.
I just decided I want to take all of this information to the full board to talk about whether what we’re doing is helping us or hurting us.
--Ad Hoc committee chair and East Aurora School Board member Anita Lewis
Over 100 community members and pastors from churches in the area spoke before the committee on November 29.
I’m going to try to be respectful, but will be blunt with what I have to say. What’s going on here is very destructive, not only to the school, but to the town and the state. My hope is that the community rises up and expresses its disapproval for what is going on here.
--Robert Prior, father of 4
I sure hope none of your children turn out to be transgender, Robert.
Over 20 people protested the drafting of a policy that even acknowledges the possible existence of transgender students.
(The arguing) is certainly not what I’d like to see, nor would the board. We’re not sure at this point that this committee would be able to do anything that is good.
The committee was created to have both sides work together to come up with the best (solution), and I’m not sure we’re going to accomplish that. My concern is for the safety of our children and our community members.
Several committee members expressed their concern that the protest was organized through the Illinois Family Institute website. The IFI has been labeled a hate group by the Sothern Policy Law Center.
Never have I seen so many people gathered in one place so determined to display their own ignorance, bigotry, and mean-spiritedness. I should not have been surprised because the protest was organized by the Illinois Family Institute, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
We cannot let a certified hate group prevent the Ad Hoc Committee from having its dialogue, proposing policy, and taking a vote.
--transgender attorney and committee member Joanie Rae Wimmer, in a letter to the Beacon-News and the school board
(The transgender community) is watching to see what happens. If this committee gets disbanded, it will create an uproar. This is huge.
--Committee member Crystal Gray
In a possible setback to efforts in Canada to add gender identity and gender expression to the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code, Ian Fine, acting secretary general of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and Susheel Gupta, acting president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, have both claimed that transgender people are already protected under the HRA. The argument is that the tribunal has ruled that discrimination "on the basis of Transsexualism constitutes 'sex' discrimination as well as discrimination on the basis of a disability." That doesn't sit well with some of us, because not all transgender people are transsexual and we do not believe we are disabled in any way whatsoever.
This is the sort of thing that happens when knowledge about a group of people is missing from the brainpans of the powers that be.
But this outpouring of concern by these two gentleman will lead to the MPs all considering to Bill-279 as "purely symbolic," which lessens its chances of passing.
Despite admitting that people who say they are transgender are already protected from discrimination, the HRC would nevertheless like to see gender identity and gender expression added to the CHRA and Criminal Code.
Fine said that adding special federal protection to trans-groups “would be a recognition of the discrimination that this group faces”.
Critics of the bill fear that the bill promotes the notion that gender is a social construct separate from one's biological set at birth...in other words, they fear people knowing that we actually exist.
And again, there are some who fear that men who are not transgender will take advantage of passage of such a bill to invade women's washrooms to rape and pillage. Hence transpeople should have no protections.
We note that there is no corresponding fear of transgender people who were classified as female at birth.