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Editorials: Miami Beach protects transgender people, South Miami covers domestic partners

From The Miami Herald Editorial Board:

MIAMI BEACH

TRANSGENDER PEOPLE PROTECTED

The City Commission beefed up its 1992 Human Relations ordinance last week to extend protections to transgender residents, partly in hopes that it will inspire the county and state to do the same. That might be feasible at the county level, but even supporters say chances at the state level are, sadly, slim to none right now.

The city's ordinance already banned discrimination in any form against anyone because of their gender, religion, race, ethnicity, age and sexual preference. Now transgender residents and employees enjoy the same protections.

The revisions provide stiffer penalties for violations, which could add up to $15,000 in fines, and create a city Human Rights Commission to oversee compliance, investigations of complaints and doling out punishment if necessary.

Miami Beach is often in the forefront of civil rights issues. It was one of the first local municipalities to allow employees to include same-sex domestic partners in its benefits plan, for example.

The ordinance update came in part as a result of the 2008 statewide voter approval of Amendment 2 to the state Constitution, which limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman. City leaders say that the amendment's passage weakened Miami Beach's laws regarding domestic partnerships.

Miami Beach has given county and state leaders a gentle nudge they should heed. The county's human-rights ordinance also protects gays, but it passed only after a bruising political battle. Nevertheless, that shouldn't deter the County Commission from extending the same rights to transgenders.

SOUTH MIAMI

DOMESTIC PARTNERS COVERED

As if to make Miami Beach's point about getting other governments to follow its lead, the South Miami City Commission this week voted 4-1 to allow city employees' domestic partners to become eligible for the same benefits as employees' spouses.

The vote brought rare unity to the dais, with the often-feuding Mayor Horace Feliu and Commissioner Valerie Newman amicably co-sponsoring the proposal.

South Miami now joins Broward and Miami-Dade counties and Miami, Miami Beach and North Miami in recognizing domestic partnerships, be they gay or straight.

The change in policy adds no costs to the city budget as the employees pay for adding their partners to the city's benefits package. One plus for cities in adopting this forward-looking policy is that it is another way to attract talented employees. Other South Florida cities should follow suit. It's smart business.

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