What Reporters Should Know About Dallas' Updated LGBT Ordinance

The Dallas City Council recently voted to clarify and update the language in the city's existing non-discrimination ordinance, which has protected LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations since 2002. Anti-LGBT groups are attacking the vote, claiming it creates new protections that would allow male sexual predators to enter women's restrooms. But these protections have existed for over a decade, and experts in Dallas have already debunked right-wing talking points about bathroom safety.

Dallas City Council Voted To Update Language In Its Non-Discrimination Ordinance

The Dallas City Council Voted To Update Its 2002 Non-Discrimination Ordinance. On November 11, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to make minor changes to its existing non-discrimination ordinance, clarifying that the ordinance prohibits discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodation. [Houston Chronicle10/11/15]

The Update Does Not Add New Protections -- Transgender Protections Were Already Included Under “Sexual Orientation.” The Dallas City Attorney's Office summarized the update (emphasis added):

Dallas's anti-discrimination ordinance was approved by the city council in 2002 and had not been amended since. The primary purpose of today's amendment was to distinguish between the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression,” which were grouped together in the definition of the term “sexual orientation” when the original 2002 ordinance was passed. The ordinance as originally approved in 2002 prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity; today's amendment simply defines gender identity separately from sexual orientation, and changes the wording of Chapter 46 of the Dallas City Code to reflect these separate definitions. [The Dallas Morning News, 11/12/15]

Anti-LGBT Groups Falsely Claim The “New” Ordinance As A Risk To Women And Children

Anti-LGBT Groups Are Claiming The Ordinance Creates “New” Protections. The anti-LGBT group Texas Values described the Dallas ordinance as adding "new and sweeping language" that “allows men into women's restrooms”:

[T]he Dallas City Council fast tracked and approved an aggressive and dangerous bathroom ordinance that allows men into women's bathroom. In a surprise move that involved the Council approving controversial language in a closed door meeting late last night,  without public input, the Council approved the new and sweeping language today that is over 10 pages long. The language is strikingly similar to the same “gender identity” and “public accommodations” language contained in the defeated Houston law that relates to bathroom, locker rooms and shower rooms. The new Dallas ordinance is a threat to safety and freedom and allows the government to fine private small business owners $500. [Texas Values Action, 11/10/15]

Texas Pastor Council: Dallas Ordinance “Removes The Doors Of Women's Restrooms.” Rev. Dave Welch, president of the anti-gay group Texas Pastor Council, claimed the Dallas ordinance “essentially removes the doors of women's restrooms”:

The council unanimously adopted a revision to the city ordinance section “Unlawful Discriminatory Practices Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression” that, according to Rev. Dave Welch, President of the Texas Pastor Council and one of the leaders of the Houston pastor coalition, “Not only opens but essentially removes the doors of women's restrooms, showers and locker rooms in Dallas, as well as criminalizes businesses, employees as well as eventually, churches who attempt to keep men out.” [Texas Pastor Council, 11/10/15]

Experts In Dallas Have Already Debunked The “Bathroom Predator” Myth

Experts In Dallas Have Debunked Concerns About The City's Transgender Protections And Public Restrooms. Experts in Dallas, including a city official and a sexual assault victims' advocate, have debunked concerns that the city's transgender protections have threatened safety in public restrooms. [Media Matters10/15/15]

Experts In Other Texas Cities With Similar Protections Reject The “Bathroom Predator” Myth. Experts in Texas cites that prohibit discrimination against transgender people, including Austin and El Paso, have dismissed the claim that such protections can be exploited by sexual predators. [Media Matters10/15/15]

Experts In 15 Other States Have Previously Debunked The Transgender Bathroom Myth. Law enforcement officials, victims' rights advocates, and human rights commission officials in states and localities with transgender non-discrimination protections have debunked the claim that sexual predators will exploit non-discrimination laws, calling it “beyond specious.” [Media Matters3/20/14]