Pittsburgh City Council to Update Transgender Inclusion in Non-Discrimination Policy

Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus introduced an ordinance this morning to include ‘gender identity or expression’ as an outright protected class in the city’s non-discrimination policy. Ordinance 2014-0644 will amend the current city law to place gender identity protection among the other protected classes rather than keep it buried within the existing definition of sex. In recognizing that gender identity is a distinct protected class, transgender and gender non-conforming Pittsburghers will finally be fully included in non-discrimination protections.

Of the 33 municipalities across Pennsylvania which have adopted an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, 28 explicitly state gender identity as a protected class. All 28 ordinances passed after Erie County’s law in early 2002 specifically have ‘gender identity’ listed amongst the other protected classes – including Allegheny County’s policy in 2009. Pittsburgh first passed a non-discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation in 1990, and later amended it to include transgender individuals in 1997 by sneaking in a broader definition of gender under the definition of “sex.”

Five of the six ordinances passed before Allentown’s in 2002 buried gender identity protections in either the definition of ‘Sex’ or ‘Sexual Orientation’ [Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, York, Lancaster, Erie County]. Many of these definitions are problematic and archaic. Philadelphia, which was the first in the state to adopt a non-discrimination law inclusive of sexual orientation in 1982, only provided gender identity protections starting in May 2002.

It is critical for gender identity be outright recognized as the protected class it is in these municipalities in order to rightly inform workers, businesses, and residents.

Not many people may intimately read the Pittsburgh City Code to understand that transgender people are shielded from discrimination. However, those who work and live in the city are regularly exposed to Pittsburgh’s equal opportunity statement on official documents and job postings. Today, the City’s operating policy on Equal Employment Opportunity does not even mention gender identity.

In advancing this ordinance, City Council will affirm that there is absolutely nothing to be shameful about in being transgender or gender non-conforming in Pittsburgh. It’s a minor clerical change, but inspires a new chapter of visibility for transgender Pittsburghers in policy.

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition joins with the larger Pittsburgh LGBT community in calling for this important update. PSEC applauds the Pittsburgh City Council for being the first of the five municipalities with the omission in policy to address this issue.

PSEC leaders had a very productive meeting with Council President Kraus last week about this concern, among others. He is the first openly gay member of Pittsburgh City Council – and was elected the council president for the first time in January 2014.

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