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April 16, 2003--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Monroe County Enacts Protections for Transgender People

Civil Rights Coalition Applauds Unanimous Vote

 TAMPA, April 16, 2003.  Civil rights activists across the state are applauding the Monroe County Commission’s unanimous decision to amend its local nondiscrimination law to include transgender people.

 In passing these protections, Monroe County joins  Key West in specifically protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and lending.  Several other Florida jurisdictions are considering adding similar protections.

  “We’re proud that Monroe County has once again distinguished itself by demonstrating its commitment to fairness and equality for all,” said Scott Fraser, Director of the Key West Gay & Lesbian Community Center. “County Mayor Dixie Spehar sponsored the amendment and the Commission never doubted that this was the right thing to do.”

 Monroe County joins a growing number of municipalities across the country to add such protections, becoming the 58th jurisdiction to expand its law.

 Janice Carney, Executive Director of the Florida Gender Equality Project (FORGE), said, “This is an important next step in the struggle for transgender equality in Florida.  We were ecstatic with the overwhelming support we received from the entire Monroe County Commission.”    

 The new law was spearheaded by a coalition of local and state human rights organizations including the Key West Gay and Lesbian Community Center, FORGE and Equality Florida, a statewide social justice organization committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, class and gender.  The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) also supported the bill and provided assistance to local activists.

 Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida’s Southern Regional Director, who earlier predicted that at least three other Florida communities may amend their laws in 2003 to provide similar protections for transgender people, feels confident that more jurisdictions will soon follow suit.

 “Efforts to protect transgender people are currently underway in St. Petersburg, Largo and Broward County,” noted Pollitzer.  “Like the rest of the country, Florida is waking up to the reality that transgender people are part of our communities and must be included in basic human rights laws.”

 Increasingly, Fortune 500 companies such as IBM, Nike and American Airlines are amending their policies to include gender identity and expression.

So far this year, 5 jurisdictions, including the state of New Mexico, Key West, El Paso, Texas, Springfield, Illinois, and now Monroe County have added protections for the transgender community.  Last year, 14 local governments added such laws.  In 2000, Wilton Manors, Florida recognized the need to protect transgender people, passing a law that required all business that contract with the city to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies.

 Monroe County amended its law to add the phrase “gender identity or expression.”  This language protects not only transgender people, but anyone who suffers discrimination because they do not fit traditional gender stereotypes.

 CONTACT:

 Janice Josephine Carney                        Stratton Pollitzer
Executive Director, FORGE                  Southern Regional Director, Equality Florida
727/399-0305                                       954/682-6094

 Karen Doering                                       Lisa Mottet, Legislative Lawyer
Staff Attorney, NCLR                           NGLTF Transgender Civil Rights Project
727/642-6580                                       800/757-6476

Scott Fraser
Key West Gay & Lesbian Community Center
305/292-3223

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