Pinellas County, home to nearly a million Floridians including the city of St. Petersburg, passed last Tuesday an amendment to the local human rights statute striking the word ‘sex’ from the law and replacing it with ‘gender.’
The change effectively adds to the law protections for the transgender community against discrimination in housing and employment. It excludes religious institutions, small businesses and schools, unlike legislation recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown in California, and does not require the construction of special bathrooms for gender nonconforming individuals.
The new law is very similar to a proposal considered by the Miami-Dade County Commission this summer and recently withdrawn from consideration to be reintroduced at a later date.
However, the Pinellas law differs from the Miami-Dade proposal in that it changes existing language to reflect a more modern understanding of the concept of gender (a psychological trait) versus biological sex (a physical trait assigned at birth). Click here to learn more about the differences between gender, sex, identity, and expression.
The way the existing human rights law in Miami-Dade is written, there is no such opportunity to modify existing language. Instead, the Miami-Dade proposal creates the entirely new categories of gender identity and gender expression on which basis a person cannot be discriminated against. As it was put before the Commission this summer, the Miami-Dade proposal also did not exempt entities like religious institutions and small businesses.
At SAVE Dade, we hope Pinellas County serves as an example for the rest of Florida going forward. If passage of human rights protections for everyone is possible in Pinellas County, it is certainly possible in Miami-Dade and throughout the state of Florida.