DALLAS (CN) - One week after Houston voters rejected an antidiscrimination ordinance that would have protected that transgender community, the Dallas City Council strengthened such protections with its own ordinance.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said after the vote on Tuesday that Dallas is "a very diverse city" and "we want to make sure everyone is protected."
The council unanimously approved an amendment to Chapter 46 of the Dallas City Code, which already protected gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in public accommodation, housing and employment. The ordinance now explicitly lists gender identity and gender expression as protected.
An LGBT taskforce headed by council member Adam Medrano had been working on the amendment for a year. Taskforce member Patti Fink told the council that any doubt over the inclusion of transgender people would be removed with the explicit inclusions in the amendment, and that transgender people can "see themselves very clearly" in the ordinance now.
"The transgender community believes they are not included because the definition of gender identity is stuffed into sexual orientation," Fink told the council.
Only the individual can determine their gender "based on their perception of their gender" under the amendment. It encourages businesses not to deny service to protected people even if they are exempt from the antidiscrimination ordinance. The changes also repeal an exception that allowed property owners to refuse renting space to gay couples if the property has shared bathrooms.
Criticism of the changes came swiftly, with state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, calling for its repeal because it "was not reviewed or thoughtfully considered" by the public.
"Houston voters soundly said NO to men in women's bathrooms," Huffines tweeted. "Dallas' new sneak-attack LGBT ordinance must be repealed and carefully reviewed."
Council member Philip Kingston quickly fired back , telling Huffines to "stop lying" about the ordinance.
It "went through a year of public discussion and makes no change to the existing public policy of Dallas," Kingston tweeted.
The vote comes one week after Houston voters repealed the controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Opponents successfully argued that passage would allow predators posing as transgender people to enter women's bathrooms.
Houston remains one of the largest cities in America without a law to protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination. The measure would have banned discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, age, disability and other grounds, in line with federal antidiscrimination laws.
Huffines targeted these kinds of ordinances when he authored Senate Bill 343 in January, after the suburb of Plano added protections for gay and transgender people to its equal rights policy ordinance last December. Huffines' proposal would have amended the Texas Local Government Code to ban cities from enforcing ordinances that do not conform to state laws on the same subject.
A signature drive to force Plano officials to repeal the change failed when the city invalidated over 3,800 signatures.