Civil Rights Briefs
NewsPlanet Staff
Thursday, December 24, 1998 / 06:12 PM

SUMMARY: Portland, Oregon resolves to provide t*-safe workplace ... Cedar Rapids, Iowa's rights ordinance crosses
2nd hurdle ... Tippecanoe County, Indiana rights proposal comatose....

Portland, OR Protects T* (with thanks to GAIN, Gender Advocacy Internet News) The City Council of Portland, Oregon on December 23 unanimously adopted a resolution against discrimination in city employment based on "gender identity," defined as "a person's actual or perceived sex, and includes a person's identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with a person's sex at birth." Director of the transgender civil rights group It's Time, Oregon! Lori Buckwalter noted that the resolution was not just a general statement of support, but contains specific proposals designed to create a workplace which will be both practical and a model for private employers.

Among those proposals are inclusion of gender identity in city agencies' non-discrimination guidelines, expansion of mediation services to resolve gender identity-based employment discrimination complaints, research into health insurance options to meet the needs of transgendered and transsexual people, and research into the possibility of expanding city equal employment opportunity certification programs to include gender identity. Noting that much remains to be done, Buckwalter said that "this resolution creates a tangible prospect that we can cooperate to dispel decades of misunderstanding, and make a real difference in people's lives. Portland is now a place of unique opportunity to start this important work."

Cedar Rapids Rights' 2nd Step The City Council of Cedar Rapids, Iowa approved the addition of sexual orientation as a protected category under the city's human rights ordinance in the second of three readings on December 23. The vote was 3 - 2, as it was on the first reading a week before; the final vote will be held on January 6. The ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and education.

The Council heard more public testimony on the issue, but instead of listening silently as they had previously, Councilmembers talked back on a few occasions. Two of the arguments countered by Councilmembers supportive of the bill were that pedophiles might be allowed to teach elementary school classes and that businesses would be forced either to employ incompetent workers or to face expensive legal cases. As Councilmember Nancy Evans stressed, the law would make it illegal to fire workers because of their sexual orientation, but they could still be fired for other reasons.

Tippecanoe Co.,IN Bill Delayed Indiana's Tippecanoe County Commission has found the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation to be so divisive that on December 21 they could agree only on setting it aside. While Commission President John Knochel emphasizes the issue isn't dead, he says it won't be taken up again for at least two months.

The group Citizens for Civil Rights had asked the Commission to enact an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on a number of characteristics including sexual orientation. Unable to agree on the proposed bill, the Commission had asked the County Attorney to draft instead a resolution. On December 21, the Commissioners were unable to agree even on a human rights resolution which omitted sexual orientation. While they shelved any such legislation for now, Knochel endorsed the idea of a series of public discussions to develop communication in the community on human relations issues.