February 24, 2009 in Idaho

Moscow ponders expanding nondiscrimination policy

Associated Press

MOSCOW — City officials in Moscow are considering a new policy that would give transgender people protection under the city’s nondiscrimination policy.

The city’s existing policy protects against discrimination for employment based on sexual orientation.

But Tim Gresback, a member of the Moscow Human Rights Commission, says that language doesn’t go far enough to protect people who identify themselves as the opposite gender.

“This is a public policy issue that should be addressed head-on on its merits,” Gresback, a lawyer, said during the City council’s administrative committee meeting Monday. “But sexual orientation is not going to protect transgendered people.”

Mayor Nancy Chaney said the council could begin considering expanding the policy as early as next week, the Lewiston Tribune reported.

The Human Rights Commission, appointed by the mayor, voted unanimously last month to urge the city to expand nondiscrimination protection for transgender people.

City Supervisor Gary Riedner and City Attorney Randy Fife said they are satisfied with the existing policy, but agreed it couldn’t hurt to make the language more specific.

But City Council member Wayne Krauss said the city should be careful about identifying specific groups or organizations of people for protection.

The existing policy “speaks strongly toward the goals of the city to be anti-discriminatory, period. Adding to that might create more of a problem than it solves,” he said.

Gresback said about 1 percent to 3 percent of the national population is transgender.

“We’ve all met effeminate men. We’ve all met masculine females,” Gresback said, adding that such people are often targets of discrimination. “For those of us in the Moscow Human Rights Commission, we find that this discrimination should not be tolerated.”

The debate follows a vote last week by state lawmakers on a measure that would have prohibited discrimination in employment, education and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Senate State Affairs Committee rejected on a voice vote an amendment to the Idaho Human Rights Act, which currently forbids workplace and housing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin or mental or physical disability.

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