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Transgendered left out of Pinellas human rights law

Pinellas County commissioners have dropped the idea of expanding their human rights law to protect transgendered people.

In April, the commission stopped short of including the transgendered when it added gays, lesbians and bisexuals to the groups protected by the county's antidiscrimination ordinance.

Commissioners directed the county attorney to study the issue before deciding whether to hold a public hearing on an expanded ordinance. On Tuesday, a motion by Commissioner Susan Latvala to hold the hearing failed on a 3-3 tie.

Commissioners Latvala, Ken Welch and Ronnie Duncan voted for the hearing. Commissioners Karen Seel, John Morroni and Robert Stewart voted against it.

Commissioner Calvin Harris, who expressed unease with including transgendered people in the ordinance, was absent.

Pinellas' human rights ordinance bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation. Welch said he especially wanted the discussion to move forward regarding housing.

"Regardless of what our own individual faith or beliefs are, everybody in Pinellas County should have a place to live," Welch said.

But Seel said the ordinance went too far and would be a burden to businesses. Asked after the vote whether it was immoral to be transgendered, Seel said no, it's a medical and biological issue.

"My empathies are with them," she said. "I think they have legitimate problems and need to be helped."

Latvala expressed regret after the vote that she was unable to muster a majority.

"Whether we understand everybody in our community or not," she said, "I don't think anybody should be discriminated against for any reason."

The idea of expanding the human rights ordinance was put in play after last year's controversy over then-Largo City Manager Steve Stanton's plans for a sex-change operation. Stanton, who changed her name to Susan and moved to Sarasota, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

After the vote, Janice Josephine Carney, a 58-year-old transgendered woman from Seminole, described the decision as "incredibly disappointing."

"I totally feel that they don't feel that I'm a human being," Carney said.

Transgendered left out of Pinellas human rights law 06/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2008 6:54pm]
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