MELROSE — The aldermen this week won high praise from people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities for amending an ordinance to state the city will not descriminate based on “sexual orientation, gender identity (or) gender expression.”
The order, sponsored by Alderman At Large Jaclyn Lavender Bird, was the result of a request from the city’s Human Rights Commission.
In a December 8 memo to Bird and her colleagues, the commission writes, “Transgender people are frequently confronted with discrimination in America, including Massachusetts. There are presently no broad protections on the basis of gender identify or expression under federal law; although, on December 3, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its final rule prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. At a local level, a growing number of states and municipalities prohibit this type of discrimination, but coverage is spotty and often not enforced.
“In 2011, Massachusetts became only the 16th state to add non-discrimination laws for gender identity, specifically in the areas of education, housing, K-12 public education, and credit. (The proposed Melrose ordinance) expands upon that protection. If passed, Melrose would become the 10th municipality in Massachusetts to provide the comprehensive protection that is necessary.
“According to the 2009 National Transgender Discrimination Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbion Task Force, some of the many issues confronted by transgender people include:
• Double the rate of unemployment
• Near universal mistreatment on the job; 97 percent report harassment and mistreatment at their place of employment
• 47 percent report adverse employment actions, including termination, denial of promotions, refusal to hire
• 58 percent report verbal harassment in places of public accommodation, including libraries, hospitals and health clinics, hotels, airports, restaurants, stores, public transportation, homeless shelters and government agencies.
• 22 percent report denial of equal treatment by government officials, and 24 percent harassment by police officers, including 50 percent reporting discomfort with even seeking police assistance when needed.
The Human Rights Commission continues:
“Transgender and gender non-conforming people often experience discrimination in their communities, including being refused service, being treated differently than their non-transgender peers, or being victims to physical and verbal harm when simply trying to carry out their daily activities….
“Melrose has a long history of respecting and protecting all of its residents, including: residents’ election of openly LGBT representatives, the City’s enactment in 1991 of (language) declaring its support and protection of the human rights of all persons in Melrose and the equal protection and opportunity of its residents in the many facets of their lives, and its establishment in 1991 of the Melrose Human Rights Commission to uphold and secure the mandates, rights and privileges of the City’s policy.”
Ten aldermen voted Monday night to adopt the new language. Ward 2’s Jennifer Lemmerman was not at the meeting.
The amended policy reads: “It is the policy of the City of Melrose to uphold the human rights of all persons in Melrose and the free exercise and enjoyment of any rights and privileges secured by the Constitutions and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This policy shall ensure equal opportunity to each person regardless of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, sexual preference orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital, family or military status, source of income or disability where unlawful discrimination exists in housing, employment, education, public accommodations, City services, insurance, banking, credit and health care.”
On Tuesday, The Rainbow Times, a publication covering the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender communities, announced the aldermen’s decision.
KC Coredini, executive director of MassEquality, made the following statement about the ordinance.
“Melrose has officially pushed the number of jurisdictions in the Commonwealth with these protections into the double digits. In the last year alone, seven cities and towns have made the right decision in ensuring the basic rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people. As we see more and more of these ordinances, we are inspired by the affirmation of the dignity of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to working with the city in implementing this ordinance and continuing the growing movement towards equality for transgender people.” “… As we see more and more of these ordinances, we are inspired by the affirmation of the dignity of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to working with the city in implementing this ordinance and continuing the growing movement towards equality for transgender people.”
Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, Brookline, Somerville, Amherst, Worcester, Newton, and Salem have all passed similar ordinances within their jurisdictions.
MassEquality is the leading statewide grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.