The city will likely add gender and transgender identities to protected statuses in Alexandria.
The new ordinance is scheduled for an introduction and first reading at the City Council’s meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) and for public hearing and enactment on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Introduced by Councilman Mohammed “Mo” Seifeldein, the new ordinance would amend the Human Rights chapter of the city code to add gender identity and transgender status to the list of population groups protected from housing, employment, public accommodations, health and social services, education, credit or city contract discrimination.
The protections make it unlawful to, for example, refuse to hire or to fire someone for their gender identity or transgender status.
While Alexandria placed highly in a Human Rights Campaign ranking of municipalities by inclusivity, gender identity protections were specifically pointed to as an area where the city should do more to improve. Mayor Justin Wilson said at the time that there was some ambiguity about what the city was allowed, and not allowed, to change in the city code regarding protections of gender identity.
Gender identity is defined in the text as “the actual or perceived gender-related identity, expression, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
The new ordinance also prohibits discrimination due to sexual orientation from city contract employment, which had been left out of a previous addition of sexual orientation to protected statuses.
Photo via Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
Alexandria has ranked highly on the 2019 Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Municipal Equality Index of cities, with a 90/100 score, but it also highlighted where there’s room to improve.
Alexandria’s lowest category is in non-discrimination laws, where HRC gave Alexandria 15 of 30 possible points. Of localities in Virginia, Alexandria ranked third behind Richmond and Arlington. Where Alexandria loses is in its protections for gender identity, where there are no protections in employment, housing, or public accommodations from discrimination.
Mayor Justin Wilson said that much of this goes back to the Dillon Rule, which means that localities like Alexandria can only exercise powers expressly granted by the state. But Wilson, and others in city leadership, have said they’re hopeful that the new Democratic majority in the Virginia legislature will mean loosening some of those local restrictions.
“The remaining points that we’re missing have to do with areas where some of the state law limits us,” Wilson said. “There’s some ambiguity for what we can do and can’t do. I suspect we’re also about to see some state laws change in that regard [concerning] laws on gender identity and gender equality.”
Wilson said the biggest current issue is that, depending on how it’s interpreted, state law forbids localities from including protections against discrimination for gender identity and expression the way localities can for other protected classes. Wilson says this extends to city government, where some benefits have been extended for transgender employees.
There is still more work to be done for offering protections, Wilson said.
Today @HRC has announced their 2019 Municipal Equality Index ratings for jurisdictions around the nation.
We have again increased our score.
We have more work to do, but this is an important validation of our efforts to ensure equality for all!https://t.co/u8HvSpZ86z
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) November 19, 2019
While Richmond and Arlington face the same Dillon Rule restrictions, where Arlington rates higher is in services it provides to support LGBTQ youth, homeless, and the elderly, none of which HRC said was available in Alexandria.
Photo via Human Rights Campaign
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Alexandria Man Charged With Classified Leaks — “A counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency has been charged with leaking top-secret details about foreign countries’ weapons systems to two journalists, including a reporter with whom he apparently was romantically involved, federal authorities said Wednesday. Henry K. Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Va., ‘was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information.'” [Washington Post, Wall Street Journal]
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Fall Family Fest This Weekend — “Celebrate the change of seasons at the City of Alexandria’s annual Family Fall Festival on October 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Armistead L. Boothe Park (520 Cameron Station Blvd.). The festival is free, with activities that include scarecrow building, inflatables, pumpkin painting and entertainment. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.” [City of Alexandria]
Del Ray Farmers Market Cookbook — “To mark the recent 25th anniversary of the Del Ray Farmers’ Market, founded by Pat Miller, Charles Buki, Karen Johnson, Dennis Areeder, and Gayle Reuter, the vendors and volunteers have assembled a commemorative cookbook.” [Zebra]
Bullying Allegations at Alexandria-Based NSF — “A union representing employees at the National Science Foundation demanded Monday that the agency take action to hold managers accountable for acts of bullying, sexual harassment and retaliation against LGBT employees.” [Government Executive]