Monica Roberts

Ms. T-DART And The Dallas TBLG Community Get Screwed

Filed By Monica Roberts | June 18, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: civil rights, Dallas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority, DART, ExxonMobile, LGBT civil rights, sexual orientation, Texas, transgender rights

Never underestimate the determination of people who wish to oppress and discriminate against others.dart_logo.jpg

It's a lesson that the GLBT community has painfully had to be reminded of repeatedly over the last 40 years in our civil rights struggle.

The latest example of the determination of the Forces of Intolerance to oppress and how far they will go to preserve their ability to discriminate against others took place in Dallas Tuesday night.

The city of Dallas since 2002 has had a trans inclusive non-discrimination policy on its legal books. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority has a policy that covered sexual orientation but not gender identity.

That hole in DART's non discrimination policy was exploited by the supervisors of a 20 year DART employee known as Ms. T-DART to protect her identity.

DART bus.jpgThe post-operative Ms. T-DART was harassed, told by her supervisors that she couldn't have long hair, wear skirts at work, or use the women's restroom. Ms. T-DART was forced to show up for work in her uniform and use public restrooms on her bus route.

To add insult to Ms. T-DART's injury, DART attorneys filed legal papers to contest her court ordered gender marker change and reverse it. It was surprisingly granted by 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry, who had received the 2009 Stonewall Democrats of Dallas Pink Pump Award and is running for reelection.

That triggered a push by the local community to amend the DART non discrimination policy to cover trans people. On March 9 a vote was taken by a DART committee of the whole to add the words 'gender identity' and 'genetic information' to the non discrimination policy.

It initially passed on a 6-5 vote, but DART board member Pamela Dunlop Gates, who represents Dallas, changed her vote from YES to NO.and asked DART attorneys to clarify the definitions for "gender identity" and "genetic information." Dunlop Gates' vote switch meant that it was delayed until the June 15 meeting of the committee.

Local activists were disappointed, but hopeful that the amended non discrimination policy would pass and be approved by the full DART board on June 22..

Fast forward to Tuesday night.

The committee went into a 30 minute executive session prior to the 11-2 vote to pass the policy. There was no public board debate once the meeting was reopened and people were allowed back into the room according to John Wright of the Dallas Voice's Instant Tea blog..

Curious, because Texas has an Open Meetings Law on the books.

If local activists weren't anxious after the 30 minute executive session, they had even more reason to be concerned after the revised language was exposed to the light of public scrutiny

DART is committed to hiring, promoting and retaining the best qualified persons in all positions and, except to the extent permitted by federal and/or Texas law, DART will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other characteristic protected by law.

Note I put the word "EXCEPT" in bold print. The insertion of that word by board member (and attorney) Raymond Noah into the policy wiped out the gender identity and the sexual orientation protections that were passed by the DART board in 1995 in one shot.

It prompted Ken Upton of Lambda Legal to state to Wright, "They just screwed you guys over royally."

"By adding that word in there, they've said we can discriminate all we want. It's exactly the opposite of what they promised they were doing."

"That's unfortunate they did that," Upton added. "After all the work that's gone into this, if this is what comes out of it, then we got nothing. They can say that's not what they intended, but that's what it says."

Naturally the Dallas BTLG community is incensed.

Cece Cox, the assistant executive director of Resource Center Dallas said in a statement released earlier today.

Dallas Skyline.jpg"Without answers from DART, we are left to speculate that DART does not care about equity for LGBT people and even perhaps that this was deliberately sabotaged."

"We have not seen action like this since ExxonMobil rescinded employment protections at their merger in the most crass display of disregard for their LGBT employees in recent corporate history. A final vote has not taken place. DART has time to do the right thing. If it does not, DART should be prepared for outrage from the LGBTA community."

RCD spokesperson Rafael McDonnell said the nature of the LGBT community's presence at next Tuesday's meeting likely will depend on what happens between now and Tuesday evening.

"The question is going to be, are they going to change the language?" "Do they get that the language is bad? And if so, what are they doing about it? I think that will reflect the tone of what we do on Tuesday."

The eyes of the Dallas area and national TBLG community will be focused on the DART board meeting Tuesday night to find out the answer to that question.

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Monica, thanks for bringing this to our attention. You are so right about the eyes of the national community being on them. The idea that they would try to slip this one by us, and pretend they are interested in equality - it's shameful.

I continue to be glad that I once packed up my toddler sons and moved away from Texas.

Rob, I just moved back. It's home.

It's also past time that liberal-progressive Texans fight to take back our state. The GOP has ruined it by turning it into a laboratory for failed conservative policies.

But long story short, Dallas also has the dynamic that it was Republican before it was trendy to be a Republican in Texas.

The DART board rep who pulled this stunt represents Highland Park, University Park, Addison, and Richardson. Highland Park and University park are wealthy and heavily Republican.

Let's hope and pray they can get this reversed before the DART board meeting Tuesday

This episode also brings up the point why we wish to see the language in the so called trans inclusive ENDA.

Bad bill and policy language can have deleterious effects on the people you are trying to protect from injury.

I also find it ironic and unfortunate that the 1995 passage of the sexual orientation only policy that left trans people behind got wiped out because we had to 'come back' 15 years later to try to get trans people covered.

I also find it ironic and unfortunate that the 1995 passage of the sexual orientation only policy that left trans people behind got wiped out because we had to 'come back' 15 years later to try to get trans people covered.

Yup. You'd think people would want to get these things right the first time so that they don't have to be updated.