A week after Houston voters overwhelmingly repealed an Equal Rights Ordinance, the Dallas City Council is set to vote Tuesday on a proposal that would strengthen the city’s LGBT protections.
Dallas has had an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance — similar to the defeated Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO — since 2002. However, when the Dallas ordinance was approved, “gender identity” was erroneously included under the definition of “sexual orientation.” The ordinance prohibits discrimination citywide in employment, housing and public accommodations.
A proposal set for consideration by the Dallas City Council on Tuesday would list “gender identity and expression” separately alongside sexual orientation, and clearly define the terms. Gender identity and expression would be defined as “an individual’s real or perceived gender identity as male, female, both, or neither.” Sexual orientation would be defined as “the actual or perceived status of an individual with respect to the individual’s sexuality,” including heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual.
In addition, the proposal would add a declaration that the city of Dallas encourages all entities to recognize the rights of all individuals, regardless of whether they’re exempt from the nondiscrimination ordinance. For example, the ordinance exempts religious organizations and companies with fewer than 15 employees, as well as state and federal government agencies.
The proposal would also remove an exemption that allowed property owners to deny renting rooms “to persons of the same sex when the dwelling contains common lavatory, kitchen or similar facilities available for the use of all persons occupying the dwelling.” And it would require officials to notify people within 15 days if the city determines that a discrimination complaint doesn’t fall within the scope of the ordinance.
The Dallas Morning News reports that a subcommittee spent 45 minutes discussing the changes behind closed doors Monday, before approving them and sending them to the full council for consideration. The proposal reportedly was added to the committee’s agenda at the last minute.
It’s unclear whether Dallas officials opted to expedite changes to the ordinance, long discussed by the city’s LGBT Task Force, in response to the Houston vote.
Phillip Jones, CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, said last week he feared the repeal of HERO in Houston could hurt the entire state when it comes to booking national conventions. But Jones also said HERO’s defeat could allow Dallas — which recently launched an LGBT tourism campaign called “All Love is Big Love” — to lure conventions away from Houston. Jones even joked that the city’s new slogan was, “Dallas: Aren’t You Glad We’re Not Houston.”
Read a memo on the proposed changes below.