Transgender Law Proposal to Get Airing

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Byline: CITY BEAT/EUGENE By Edward Russo The Register-Guard

The outcome of a proposal in Eugene to extend civil rights protections to transgender people might not be known until fall, but a key public forum on the topic is scheduled for next month.

The proposed law would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodation.

`Transgender' describes a range of people with conflicts or questions about their gender. They include people who are born male but think of themselves as female, or vice versa, or people who are preparing for a sex change operation, or those who have had a sex change.

An estimated 100 transgender people live in Eugene.

The protections are needed because many of them are harassed and discriminated against, said Sara Rich, chairwoman of the city's Human Rights Commission.

"Many transgender people can't get employment and housing," she said. "And when it comes to transgender youth, a majority of them talk about being homeless in Eugene."

If the law is approved by the City Council, it would give transgender people legal recourse if they encounter discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

For example, it would be illegal for a landlord to turn away a renter for being transgender, or for an employer to refuse to hire someone for the same reason.

The proposed law also woudl make it illegal for an employer to deny access to a restroom that a worker "deems most appropriate for the employee's gender identity." It also would be unlawful for a health club owner to deny someone the use of showers and locker rooms if the person believes that the facilities fit his or her gender identity.

People can share their opinions about the proposed law with the Human Rights Commission at 7 p.m. on June 21 in City Hall, 777 Pearl St.

The City Council was supposed to have its own public hearing this month on the proposed law. But a committee of the Human Rights Commission that wants the law passed took longer than expected to hammer out proposed wording to add "gender identity" to the city's anti-discrimination code.

The 30-member gender identity work group had about 15 transgender people who were not content with minimum protections, said Rich, the Human Rights Commission chairwoman.

"The younger members of the transgender community wanted us to be more up-to-date and current with other municipalities that have incorporated gender identity into their protection codes," she said. …