|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
"Gender identity" divides King County Council
By Keith Ervin
In a proposed revamping of some 200 pages of existing ordinances, Sims also would apply existing equal-protection laws to the smallest of businesses in unincorporated King County.
Current laws apply only to businesses with eight or more employees.
The proposed amendments would prohibit government and businesses from discriminating on the basis of "gender identity" in housing, employment and public accommodations. Existing county laws prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, age, marital status and sexual orientation.
A staff report to the council gave a primer on people who would be protected from harm based on their gender identity:
Transsexuals, "who change their primary social gender roles" and sometimes their physical identity through surgery or hormone treatment.
Transgendered people, a term that can refer "to all individuals who experience internal conflict with their physical sex."
Transvestites, usually men who sometimes dress as women.
Intersexed persons, who are born with unusual genital characteristics.
Bailey deIongh, manager of the county's Office of Civil Rights, said federal and state laws don't protect people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual or gender orientation.
Since gender-identity minorities became a protected class in Seattle and Tacoma several years ago, deIongh said, "it has not engendered a lot of complaints filed with those communities. Hopefully, it has prevented discrimination."
Lambert said she believes in banning discrimination by age, race and ethnicity but said an employer should be able to discriminate "on a person's choices."
Under Sims' proposal, Lambert suggested, a women's gym owner who wanted to hire a woman might get in trouble if she didn't hire a transvestite.
Councilwoman Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, said existing laws prohibiting religious discrimination set a precedent for protecting people on the basis of their behavior. To Republicans' concerns that small businesses might be burdened by new restrictions, Patterson said job applicants and employees shouldn't be subjected to discrimination just because they are dealing with a small business.
"I assume that the majority of us here think it's wrong and unethical for someone to be fired from their job because of how they orient themselves sexually," Patterson said.
In other business, the County Council amended the 9-month-old equal-benefits ordinance that requires contractors for the county to give the domestic partners of employees the same benefits as employees' spouses.
The bipartisan amendment, introduced by Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican David Irons, would extend benefits beyond domestic partners to a larger group of "legally domiciled" members of an employee's household.
Legally domiciled residents include an employee's adult dependent relatives and nonmarried adults who share living expenses and who intend to continue living with the employee.
The broader definition was patterned after a San Francisco ordinance in order to address the concerns of Catholic Community Services and other faith-based organizations.
County Councilman Steve Hammond, R-Enumclaw, cast the only vote against the amendment, saying it improved the ordinance but did not remove his philosophical objections to the law.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top