Bil Browning

Btown to add "gender identity" protections

Filed By Bil Browning | April 04, 2006 11:44 AM | comments

Filed in: Living

Bloomington, Indiana, is likely to become the second city in the state to provide civil-rights protections based on gender identity. On April 12, the Bloomington City Council is scheduled to discuss a resolution to add "gender identity" as a protected category to the city's human-rights ordinance, with final action expected on April 19.

The resolution includes a definition of "gender identity" proposed by the Bloomington Human Rights Commission (BHRC) when it voted unanimously on Sept. 26, 2005, to recommend amending the city's HRO. The definition reads: "Gender identity means a person's actual or perceived gender-related attributes, self-image, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not such characteristics differ from those traditionally associated with the person's assigned sex at birth."

Unlike the ordinance passed by Indianapolis City-County Council, Bloomington's would rely on voluntary mediation to address complaints of gender-identity discrimination but would also allow BHRC's attorney to pursue gender-identity complaints selectively as sex-discrimination complaints, with the power to enforce compliance. The proposed amendment "looks like a home run to me," said Bree Hartlage, founder of the Bloomington Transgender Support Group and a board member of Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA).

BHRC attorney Barbara McKinney says the commission considered gender-identity protections in 1993, when sexual orientation was added to Bloomington's ordinance, but did not pursue the matter. Commissioner Emily Bowman revived the idea in 2004. For the past two years, Hartlage and Indiana Equality chair John Clower, assisted by transpeople and trans-advocates from Bloomington and Indianapolis, have been in conversation with city councilors, BHRC members and Mayor Mark Kruzan to advocate for protections. Among the organizations that have sent letters to the council to endorse the addition of "gender identity" are Indiana Equality, INTRAA, IU GLBT Student Support Services, Bloomington Beacon, bloomingOUT radio, Bloomington PFLAG, Indiana Stonewall Democrats, and Bloomington United.

Indiana Equality is currently working with groups in other Indiana cities to secure gender-identity and sexual-orientation protections.

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