Local Steps Forward: Strong Movement on Local Protections, But Challenges Still Exist

By Shane Stahl • March 1, 2018 • 3:14 pm

February brought about positive change and discussion in places where LGBTQ issues are often not part of the conversation; specifically this month, Wyoming and Texas, neither of whom have statewide nondiscrimination protections, but have cities working toward making equality a reality in their municipality. While good news continued throughout the month in Massachusetts and Indiana, a Wisconsin city saw an attempt to repeal a recently passed nondiscrimination ordinance. Here, our Local Steps Forward roundup for February, 2018.

CASPER, WY

On February 20, the Casper City Council passed a comprehensive non-discrimination resolution that affirms, as stated, “the right of LGBT citizens to live free of discrimination in all of its forms.”

The resolution was proposed three months ago by the local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Councilman Dallas Laird, who voted in favor of the resolution, said in a statement:

“This is a monumental moment, and this kind of thing is about the hearts and minds of people and it’s not something that you can legislate lightly. But I think you have to do the right thing, and I think it was a kind act.”

The four hour meeting on Tuesday included testimony from over 20 people on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, Mayor Ray Pacheco, Vice Mayor Charlie Powell and City Council members Dallas Laird, Kenyne Humphrey, Jesse Morgan and Amanda Huckabay voted in favor of the measure. Those opposed were Shawn Johnson, Bob Hopkins and Chris Walsh.

Although attempts to pass an anti-discrimination bill through the state Legislature have failed, some municipalities in Wyoming, including Laramie and Gillette, have established resolutions or ordinances to promote equal rights and opportunities for LGBT residents. Cheers to Wyoming Equality for all of their fantastic work on this front, building momentum for LGBTQ-inclusive protections.

PLANO, TX

On Tuesday, February 6, the Plan Independent School District convened to discuss updating its existing non-discrimination policies, after an instance of anti-LGBTQ cyberbullying was brought to the attention of the school board.

Dawna Hubert, board member of the local Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said she was proud of the Plano East students for speaking up for the LGBTQ community. She asked the board to include sexual orientation in the district’s non-discrimination policy to protect future LGBTQ students from being bullied or threatened.

“It’s not teaching about the LGBTQ community in class. It’s not taking some big political position. It’s saying loud and clear that it’s not okay to bully LGBTQ students,” Hubert said. Hubert also commented that she was looking forward to more districtwide conversations about the LGBTQ community in the future.

“I look forward to them revisiting the issue of adding LGBTQ to the non-discrimination policy. The larger districts in the area have already done so, and actions have show Plano needs to do the same,” she said.

SWAMPSCOTT, MA

Earlier this month, the principal of Stanley Elementary School in Swampscott, MA came out as transgender to students and parents in a letter.

Principal Tom Daniels stated in the letter an intention to present as female and go by the name Shannon, already Daniels’ middle name.

“I have struggled with gender identity since I was in elementary school,” Daniels said. “I did my best to suppress those feelings for more than 40 years, and while I was successful to a degree, I have never been completely happy or at peace. I got to the point that I thought I would never be able to reveal my true self. Frankly, the prospect of doing so was terrifying.”

In the letter home to parents, Daniels made some suggestions on how parents can communicate the change to their children, including explaining how there are different ways boys and girls can express themselves, but that it’s important to accept everyone for who they are.

“As hard as this will be for people, I think because they know me so well — I’ve been the principal here and I’m in my sixth year — I have a track record. I’ve really done a great job. I’m not perfect but they know I love their kids. I’ve done a good job. Even though this is going to seem very, very strange to some, they know I’m not really that strange a person.”

District Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has been supportive of Principal Daniels’ journey, serving as a co-author on the letter.

“As pointed out in the letter, getting to the point of being willing to share those feelings has been a long and challenging process,” Angelakis wrote in a letter to the Swampscott community. “I hope you will join me and the entire district leadership team in offering Principal Daniels our acceptance, understanding and support.”

CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN

On February 13, the city council of Crawfordsville gave first reading to a request by the city’s Human Rights Commission to modify the city’s existing non-discrimination code to include protections for LGBTQ people.

Mayor Todd Barton reconvened the commission earlier this year and asked them to review existing city code and make any civil rights related updates.

Already in Indiana, four counties and eighteen cities have enacted their own comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

DE PERE, WI

On the heels of an ordinance from November enacting comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ, five churches and a radio station have filed a lawsuit in Brown County Circuit Court claiming they deserve an exemption from the law due to their religious beliefs.

In a statement, Lakeshore Communications, the parent company of radio station Q90FM, claimed the ordinance is “so broadly written that it would undermine constitutionally protected rights of churches and religious organizations to conduct their affairs in a manner consistent with our biblical mandates and principles.”

De Pere’s ordinance is written nearly identical to those passed in 18 states and over 200 cities, all of which protect LGBTQ people. In every location, no negative consequences have resulted from implementation of such an ordinance.

The language contained in the De Pere ordinance protects LGBTQ people from being discriminated against in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Currently in Wisconsin, statewide protections are available on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Six other cities, including Milwaukee, have passed local ordinances including gender identity.


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