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Miami-Dade Passes Preliminary Vote On Transgender Protection

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A transgender protection ordinance won a preliminary vote on Tuesday in Miami-Dade.

The win comes after two county commissioners pushed to add the protection to a law that bans discrimination in government employment and the delivery of public services.

Audrey Edmonson told CBS4 News partner the Miami Herald, "This country is evolving in a way where we're more accepting, so I think this is a good time to bring it back."

This was the second time Edmonson and Bruno Barreiro tried putting up the legislation for vote.  The first time they withdrew it from consideration when it faced resistance in a key committee made up of five commissioners.  The decision to put it back before commissioners came after Lynda Bell lost her reelection bid to Daniella Levine Cava.

Levine Cava was elected with the vocal support of SAVE, Miami-Dade's leading gay-rights group that blamed Bell for the failure of last year's trans-inclusive amendment.

Even though Levine Cava won't be sworn in until November 18, she would be on the board once the measure has passed through the commission's legislative process and comes before the Health & Social Services Committee, sometime in late November, with the final vote in December.

The proposal advanced last year with only Bell voting against, which bodes well for the transgendered community.

Edmonson, the chairwoman of the health committee, said the changing composition of the board aided in the resuscitation of the proposal. She also stated the shift in popular culture and society contributed.

"It's something that has to be dealt with," Barreiro said.

The amended law would extend the discrimination ban to "gender identity" and "gender expression."

Currently, it is illegal in county government to discriminate against someone — in terms of their public employment, family leave, accommodations, credit and financing, or public housing — on the base of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, marital status, familial status or sexual orientation.

Miami-Dade is trying to join a long list of counties that have already made the change to include transgender protections.  Similar ordinances expanding human rights already happened in Monroe County and Key West in 2003, Miami Beach in 2004, Palm Beach County in 2007, Broward County in 2008 and Gainesville's Alachua County.

While Miami-Dade is trying to widen the scope of human rights in county law, Miami Beach already voted to provide city employees with transgender health insurance. The insurance would cover treatments such as gender-reassignment surgery and hormone and psychological therapy but not cosmetic procedures.

The Christian Family Coalition opposed the proposal last year. They claimed the expanded definition would allow non-transgender people to cross-dress and enter opposite sex public bathrooms to prey on victims.

Anthony Verdugo, the Christian Family Coalition's executive director, opposes the policy and calls it a "a solution in search of a problem."

"It legalizes discrimination, because it gives a reason for employers to fire employees," Verdugo said. He cited the case of a Macy's employee in Texas who lost her job in 2011 because the employee said she didn't allow a transgender customer to use a women's dressing room.

Edmonson dismissed the criticism passing the law would somehow start a problem of people preying on others in public places.

"That was just a smoke screen," she said. "We've got at least 10 counties already in the state [with similar legislation], and no one's having that problem."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)


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