Miami-Dade County votes in favor of banning transgender discrimination

Ordinance to expand county's law on discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation

MIAMI – After a four-hour public hearing Tuesday and months of debate, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 8-3 to add protections for transgender people to its four-decade old human rights ordinance. The move extends legal protections prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or gender expression.

Voting in support were Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Bruno Barreiro, Daniella Levine-Cava, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss, Rebeca Sosa and Xavier Suarez. Opposing the ordinance were Commissioners Esteban Bovo, Pepe Diaz and Juan Zapata voted against it.

Transgender people in the audience applauded the move.

"I felt my job was compromised when I came out as transgender," said Parker Pera.

Much of the opposition and debate centered around bathroom issues, fears and confusion over who would be allowed in which gender's public bathrooms, and whether criminally minded would take advantage.

"If I feel like I'm a female right now, I can go into the women's restroom?" asked Joe Davila, the pastor who came to the hearing to speak in opposition.

Opposition groups, mostly from the religious right, launched a campaign to squash the ordinance that included scare-tactic fliers and accusations that Communists supported the amendment.

"Transgender people need that protection because there is such gross misinformation out there," said Commissioner Sally Heyman.

"We're united in opposing discrimination -- that's definitely the good news. And now we are divided about bathrooms," said Commissioner Daniella Levine-Cava.

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Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."