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Gainesville Commission votes to protect transgender rights

By MEGAN ROLLAND, Gainesville Sun

Gainesville city commissioners voted 4-3 early Tuesday morning to approve an ordinance protecting the rights of transgender citizens, after listening to more than two hours of comments.

A majority of the speakers opposed the ordinance and several times Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan had to ask the large crowd to quiet down their cheers and jeers.

In the end, Hanrahan and commissioners Craig Lowe, Jeanna Mastrodicasa, Jack Donovan voted to approve the ordinance, which includes the words "gender identity" into a list of classes of people protected from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation and obtaining credit. Already covered in the ordinance are race, sex, sexual preference and religion.

Lowe, who helped draft the law on the Equal Opportunity Committee, said that he weighed heavily every person who spoke about the ordinance.

"Every piece of information we get is important in making a decision, and you have to weigh that information . . . and determine the validity of all of the points of view," Lowe said. "After an evaluation of that type, then you make a decision."

Commissioner Scherwin Henry reversed his vote from the first time the commission voted on the ordinance and joined commissioners Ed Braddy and Rick Bryant in opposing the ordinance.

Braddy made a motion, which was defeated, that the anti-discrimination ordinance be put on hold until language was introduced that required city, state and federal government compliance.

In replace of that ordinance, the commission voted to have the Equal Opportunity Committee look into adding that language into the ordinance.

Amid comments claiming religious damnation for the commissioners who voted yes on the ordinance, two transgender women stood up to talk about the struggles of daily life.

"I disagree with us being diagnosed as 'mental cases,' " said Michelle Phillips who is a women's studies major at the University of Florida. "I just wish that people would understand that we are not predators.

"I appreciate the effort the City Commission is giving," she said.

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he world is not a binary of man & woman. Currently 1/2500 births are ambiguous, where the doctor cannot determine the sex or gender of the new born. Those of us who are Transgender, Transsexual, or Intersex face a life of terror and discrimination over something so simple as using a restroom. As a transgender, one can be arrested for using a women’s restroom, and assaulted, beaten or killed for using a men’s facility. It is not an easy issue to solve, nor is it an issue that should be ignored. As a transitioned woman, legally and anatomically identified as such, I have had male managers come into the women’s room invading my privacy. And I have been embarrassed by women managers when buying clothes and asked to leave the fitting room. Although I appear female, I am tall and often tower over others. I have a friend who is Intersex and having both male and female anatomy has a very difficult Life. The Gainesville ordinance is about everyone's safety. As a conservative, Christian, parent, and Transsexual I wonder often how someone can express religious values by showing bigotry and hate. Perhaps, we can do better and gain understanding of others needs and concerns. As a Transsexual, I have a life time of understanding and concern. A life time!

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