Pinellas Commission passes protections for transgender people

Published Aug. 21, 2013

Pinellas County Commissioners voted Tuesday to extend some legal protections to transgender people.

By a 6-1 vote, the board approved replacing the word "sex" in the county's human rights law with the word "gender," which gives transgender people — those who identify with a different gender than the one listed on their birth certificates — the same protections afforded to people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability status and other characteristics.

Under the revised law, transgender people would have an avenue to protest if they are fired or denied housing because of discrimination. It would also allow them to use bathrooms assigned to the sex with which they identify. The law does not apply to religious institutions, public schools or businesses with fewer than five employees. It would not require the county or businesses to build extra unisex facilities.

Opponents showed up to the hearing en masse, outnumbering supporters. "I don't want a man because his gender identity has become female being able to use the same restroom as I do," said Dorothy Bonds of Palm Harbor.

Commissioner Norm Roche was the sole vote against the change.