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Chicago mayor, LGBT Caucus introduce measure to protect trans residents from bias
by Matt Simonette
2016-05-18

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A new measure was introduced in the Chicago City Council May 18 that prohibits public accommodations—such as hotels, restaurants or grocery stores—from requiring that patrons show a government ID to prove their gender identity in order to access facilities such as restrooms or changing facilities.

A proposed change in the language of the Human Rights Ordinance indicates that, "Each person determines his or her own gender identity; no proof shall be required except his or her expression of his or her gender."

The measure was referred to the council's Committee on Human Relations. The hearing will be June 8, 9am-Noon, in the City Council Chambers.

Mona Noriega, chair and commissioner of the city's Commission on Human Relations, said that Chicago was probably "ahead of its time" in laws protecting gays and lesbians, but the current law does "have that unfortunate requirement about having matching gender markers on your ID." She added that the new measure has a broad base of support: "The LGBT Caucus [of the City Council] and multiple City Council members and officials support this."

"The City of Chicago celebrates diversity and has a long and proud history of being a welcoming place for LGBT residents," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. "Despite measures being enacted in other states, we as a country should be adding more protections—not taking them away—to prevent discrimination, which is why we're proposing this additional measure to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination in Chicago."

The rule comes as many communities across the country—many in the Chicago region—grapple with transgender rights. Chicago Public Schools recently expanded its guidelines and policies around its transgender students, while a suburban district in the Northwest suburbs recently was sued along with the federal government for what parents said were rules that invaded student privacy.

Phoenix Matthews, co-chair of Pride Action Tank's Chicago Restroom Access Project (CRAP), said that CRAP has been working on this issue since last fall.

"It's absolutely a remarkable advancement for trans civil rights in Chicago," Matthews said. "Any time we can get exclusionary rules and language in ordinances removed is remarkable."

Ald. Pat Dowell, who chairs the Committee on Human Relations, voiced her support for the measure in a statement, contrasting the city's progress on the matter with that of North Carolina, which recently passed its discriminatory HB 2 legislation.

"The North Carolina law is unconscionable and an extreme overreach, and I'm pleased that Chicago is taking the opposite approach in an effort to protect all of our residents from discrimination," Dowell said in a statement.

"Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in Chicago," added Ald. Tom Tunney. "This measure further underscores the fact that Chicago welcomes all people, regardless of their biological category and/or their gender identity."

"Transgender people shouldn't be subjected to ridiculous restrictions on bathroom usage," said Ald. James Cappleman. "This measure protects this community from discriminatory practices like those wrongly embraced by states like North Carolina."

Kim Hunt, executive director of the Pride Action Tank, said that the change "brings the ordinance much more in line with our core values as Chicagoans. PAT looks forward to meeting with Ald. Dowell and getting this before the council, and passed, as quickly as possible."

Matthews added, "As a trans-identifying individual, I can only say it's good to see this broad level of support from the city."

What follows is the city's full press release:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and members of the aldermanic LGBT caucus today introduced a measure that would strengthen transgender protections offered under the Human Rights Ordinance and align it with new guidelines recently enacted by Chicago Public Schools ( CPS ).

The ordinance would prohibit public accommodations like hotels, restaurants or grocery stores from requiring patrons to show a government-issued ID upon request to access its facilities that are private in nature such as restrooms based on a person's biological category, his or her gender identity, or both.

"The City of Chicago celebrates diversity and has a long and proud history of being a welcoming place for LGBT residents," said Mayor Emanuel. "Despite measures being enacted in other states, we as a country should be adding more protections — not taking them away — to prevent discrimination, which is why we're proposing this additional measure to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination in Chicago."

"Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in Chicago," said Alderman Tom Tunney. "This measure further underscores the fact that Chicago welcomes all people, regardless of their biological category and/or their gender identity."

"The North Carolina law is unconscionable and an extreme overreach, and I'm pleased that Chicago is taking the opposite approach in an effort to protect all of our residents from discrimination," said Alderman Pat Dowell.

"Transgender people shouldn't be subjected to ridiculous restrictions on bathroom usage," said James Cappleman. "This measure protects this community from discriminatory practices like those wrongly embraced by states like North Carolina."

"This change will ensure that the Human Rights Ordinance's public accommodation protections of equal access will apply equally to all people as originally intended," said Mona Noriega, Chair and Commissioner of the Commission on Human Relations. "As the agency that enforces the ordinance, we applaud the Mayor for taking this corrective action. The law was enacted by the City to protect people from discrimination, not be a tool for discrimination."

This is just the latest action taken by the Mayor to combat discrimination against LGBT and transgender individuals. Last month, in response to a new North Carolina law that prohibits local governments from passing laws to protect members of the LGBT community, Mayor Emanuel directed City department heads to cease any City-funded or other travel by an employee representing the City of Chicago to the State of North Carolina. Departments shall not authorize any employee travel that is not absolutely necessary for the enforcement of Chicago law, meets prior contractual obligations, or is for the protection of public health, welfare and safety.


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