Around three dozen protesters stood outside Denton City Hall demanding City Council members to adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance for the Denton LGBTQ community.
Tuesday’s march, organized by OUTreach Denton, focused on specific protections for Denton’s LGBTQ residents. Organizers are seeking protections for transgender people in housing, jobs and public accommodations, demanding that religious institutions not be exempt from a city nondiscrimination ordinance, and saying local LGBTQ organizations must have the chance to review a proposed ordinance.
“A nondiscrimination ordinance is about protecting,” James Jackson, who is on the steering committee of OUTreach Denton, told the crowd. “We’re asking the city to protect queer and trans members of our community who will face discrimination and harassment.”
OUTreach Denton was created in 2010 to provide LGBTQ youth and adults with support, resources and advocacy.
Anjelica Fraga, also with OUTreach Denton’s steering committee, said conversations surrounding a nondiscrimination ordinance have been ongoing with City Council members and said community members need to review the ordinance when the council eventually reviews it.
“When writing legislation that affects a specific community, it’s important to include them in the conversation,” Fraga said. “So obviously, you want to make sure that we’re having ongoing conversations, not just during council meetings, but also with individual council members. So that we know that they are all going in understanding what our community needs under this ordinance because it’s for us.”
Jackson recounted being discriminated against in 2017, when a Denton gym employee questioned Jackson’s gender. Jackson argued to the gym employee that they can use whichever gender locker room.
“I will not stand for another person in Denton to be discriminated against, to be harassed, to be belittled, to be covered,” Jackson told the crowd. “You should never, never be made to feel ashamed for who you are.”
Jenny Bates, also with OUTreach Denton, told the crowd one of the ways cities often water down nondiscrimination ordinances is to give religious institutions free rein to do whatever they want.
“As a Christian, I recognize and forcing someone to adhere to my beliefs is not what I was asked by my God to do,” Bates said to the crowd. “I was told to love my neighbor and myself and my God all the same. Any attempt to discriminate against my neighbor and deny them access to housing, bathrooms, jobs or any other public accommodations is un-Christlike, no matter who they are.”
Jo Hargif, another demonstrator with the group, said while some council members understand the issue, some members are stuck in the past.
“A great deal of our City Council members seemed to just be stuck in the past when it comes to no basic protections for LGBTQIA+,” Hargif said.
OUTreach Denton members said they want city leaders to be aware of hatred and discrimination directed at the local LGBTQ community.
“We know that there’s discrimination that happens every single day that we don’t hear about,” Fraga said to the crowd. “So, we want to be proactive instead of reactive. That is what we should be telling our council members. Their narrative is that it doesn’t happen here. But we know we know that it does. So, we need to make that make sure they know that it happens here.”