A proposal to extend legal protections to transgender people in Pinellas County will get a public hearing Aug. 20, the commission unanimously decided Tuesday.
The change would replace the word "sex" in the county's human rights ordinance — which bans housing and employment discrimination — with the word "gender," a distinction that would give transgender people the same protections afforded to people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability status, and other characteristics. It also would give them an avenue to protest if they are fired, denied housing or barred from certain public accommodations because of discrimination.
Commissioners emphasized Tuesday that the law would not apply to religious institutions, public schools or businesses with fewer than five employees. And though it would allow transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to the sex with which they identify, it would not require the county or businesses to build extra facilities.
Though several commissioners expressed support for the change, others appeared apprehensive.
In 2008, when the board decided not to include gender in the ordinance, there were "a lot of questions on employment and the impact to businesses," said Commissioner John Morroni, adding that many of those questions remain.