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Activists unhappy with bathroom language added to NDO
QSanAntonio, August 30, 2013

Transgender supporters of the city's proposed nondiscrimination ordinance were dealt a blow on August 28 when Councilman Diego Bernal released changes to the draft. One of those revisions codifies the right of businesses to deny the use of restrooms to transgender citizens.

The new language reads: "Nothing herein shall be construed as directing any policy or practice regarding the use of restrooms, shower rooms, or similar facilities which have been designated for use by persons of the opposite sex."

Supporters of the ordinance made their views known immediately. "Equality Texas and coalition partners oppose the restroom language in this draft and we are working with coalition partners to have it revised," wrote Equality Texas executive director Chuck Smith in a Facebook post.

Lauryn Farris of the Transgender Education Network of Texas said the organization, "stands in solidarity with other trans communities in opposing the language recently added to the San Antonio Non-Discrimination ordinance. We whole-heartedly support the ordinance and the efforts being made by City Council, but we cannot support the bathroom exclusionary language."

On August 29, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, released a statement addressing the new language in the ordinance.

"It has been brought to our attention that an amendment is being considered to the proposed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio that would make the ordinance not apply to policies related to restrooms and other sex-specific facilities, meaning that covered entities that would otherwise be banned from discriminating would be given a blank check to do just that in terms of facilities," Keisling wrote.

"We urge the San Antonio city council to look at the facts, instead of responding to fear mongering, and pass the ordinance without this amendment. If this amendment is adopted, NCTE will oppose the bill," she added.

Kelli Maples, a member of CAUSA and a transgender activist, says the wording weakens the ordinance but that her concerns go even further. "While it does preserve the status quo, the bill is a tad weaker for transgender people than it was before the update," she says.

"Another thing. The changes most likely will not appease the opponents as it will not have gone as far as an outright ban on 'men' in the (women's) bathroom. It also sorta plays into their theme that there was a problem with the original bill, and that by changing the wording, to some degree anyway, in their minds, Councilman Bernal is acknowledging the transgender predator meme. I don't think it will neutralize that thinking at all."

Even before the changes were made to the draft, City attorney Michael Bernard told the San Antonio Express-News on August 15, "The law in this jurisdiction is a man who's born a man is a man so you wouldn't be able to prosecute someone for stopping a transgender person from going into a bathroom," he said.

"If the proposal passes, a business owner in San Antonio would still have the right to stop someone from going into a bathroom — regardless of that person's gender identity," Bernard said.

The city attorney's statement is based on a 1999 ruling in the Fourth Court of Appeals that says the male chromosomes do not change with either hormonal treatment or sex reassignment surgery and that illogically a post-operative female transsexual is still a male. (See related story link below.)

After the ordinance changes were released, Texas Public Radio commentator Ryan Lord wrote: "Groups on both sides of San Antonio's proposed non-discrimination ordinance have fought fiercely about the matter . . . But now, no one is in agreement over the ordinance."

At press time, it was not clear whether advocates will be able to persuade Councilman Bernal to change the language before the City Council vote on Thursday, September 5.

Related Links

Passage of NDO will not solve transgender bathroom issues
QSanAntonio.com, August 16, 2013
A 1999 ruling made by former Mayor Phil Hardberger when he was Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals will have an impact on determining whether transgender citizens can legally use a public bathroom based on their gender identity even if the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance is passed by the City Council.

Scaremongering ignores Hardberger opinion
By Brian Chasnoff, San Antonio Express-News, August 15, 2013
Six years before Phil Hardberger became mayor, he wrote an opinion as chief justice of the Fourth Court of Appeals that should serve to cool at least one heated objection to the city's proposal to update its nondiscrimination ordinance. The proposal would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Commentary: Separating anti-bias vote discriminatory
By Josh Brodesky, San Antonio Express-News, August 7, 2013
Just what will City Council do about Jennifer Ingram? Service is in her blood, you could say. Her family members have served in the military for generations. Every member of San Antonio's council supports veterans' rights. But some on council want to split the vote. They want to support veterans, but then vote against protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.