There have been a few discussions on bringing an LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance to Denton over the last couple of years, but to no fruition. Community members hope to change that this year.
Denton residents in favor of an LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance worked Saturday at Denton County Brewing Co. to write postcards urging the city to adopt such legislation. The postcards aim to show the Denton City Council that this issue is important to many people.
An anti-discrimination ordinance for LGBTQ people would protect them from discrimination in the workplace, in obtaining housing and getting medical care at the local level. Amber Briggle, who organized the event, said ordinances like these are to keep people from getting fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“These are the things I’m trying to prevent from happening to my son,” Briggle said. Her son is transgender.
There is no federal law that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, unlike the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color or national origin.
Instead, local governments across the United States have adopted ordinances protect their LGBTQ residents. The Williams Institute found in March 2019 that at least 22 states and Washington D.C. have local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or both.
Five cities in Texas — Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and San Antonio — currently have nondiscrimination ordinances.
“These are protections that should be enjoyed by everyone,” Elise Kolderup said. “Friends of mine have been fired for coming out as trans. This is something that happens extensively.”
Supporters at Saturday’s meeting were encouraged to write postcards and include a powerful message on why they want the city to pass an ordinance, such as personal anecdotes of discrimination attendees or their loved ones have faced.
“I am a trans woman and a lesbian… in my previous town, I was on the receiving end of being singled out at my job,” Alice Stewart, a new Denton resident, said.
Stewart said her manager attempted to keep her from using the women’s restroom at work. Her partner, Lynn Vall, also said Stewart was also rejected from a job offer because she is transgender.
Stewart was recommended for the job by someone who knew the employer, but they recommended her with her dead name. A dead name is the birth name of a person who has since changed it.
When Stewart later applied for the job with her name, which she was told there were several open positions, she said she got the rejection email the same day.
Vall said getting an ordinance passed in Denton is important for her housing.
Due to her sexual orientation and gender identity, Vall said she “knows there’s no legal recourse if [she’s] evicted.”
From the City Council perspective, council members Deb Armintor and Paul Meltzer expressed concern over the language of a possible ordinance. While they want to make sure people are protected and that an ordinance passes, they don’t want to keep votes in favor from going through if religious exemptions aren’t allowed.
Both council members said they want to hear from constituents about the matter. How religion comes into play in a anti-discrimination ordinance was also the most discussed matter at a forum in July where people from different perspectives spoke about what an ordinance would do for the city.
“I think every Dentonite can support the idea that every person deserves equality before the law, and the same protections,” Meltzer said.