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Palm Coast Monday, Mar. 28, 2016 6 years ago

County to consider housing nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people

The county may add "gender identity and sexual orientation" to a list of qualities that may not be used as a basis for discrimination in housing.
by: Jonathan Simmons Managing Editor

Flagler County may add "personal gender identity and sexual orientation" to a list of qualities that may not be used as a basis for discrimination in housing, extending protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. 

"We have the protected class of people that you always have in discrimination where it's race color, religion, sex age handicap, familial status ancestry or national origin," County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Revels said at a March 21 County Commission meeting. "And I would like consideration to add to that, 'and personal identity or sexual orientation.' That you cannot discriminate based on any of those items."

No one on the commission objected. 

"That's kind of the law of the land right now anyway," Commissioner Frank Meeker said.  

The city of Palm Coast has housing nondiscrimination protections that cover sexual orientation — alongside race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status and handicap — but do not cover gender identity. The housing nondiscrimination protections in the cities of Bunnell and Flagler Beach do not have protections for either sexual orientation or gender identity, and Beverly Beach does not have a housing nondiscrimination ordinance.

Volusia County includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its human rights ordinance, as do Broward County, Alachua County, Orange County, Palm Beach County and many other counties and cities within the state.

But there are no federal housing non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and many states, including Florida, do not have such protections for housing or for employment or public accommodations.  

Revels' announcement came just two days before the North Carolina legislature met in special session to pass a law overturning all local nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within the state, barring municipalities from passing any new ones and requiring people to use bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates. The law has prompted a backlash from major corporations.

The state's governor, Pat McCrory, said in a tweet that he signed the legislation to overturn an ordinance in the city of Charlotte that permitted transgender people to use bathrooms that matched their gender identity rather than their sex at birth. 

On March 28, the governor of Georgia vetoed a bill which would have allowed individuals and businesses to discriminate against gay or transgender people on the basis of religious belief. The governor's veto followed opposition to the legislation from corporations including Disney, Microsoft and Apple and from a coalition of corporations that includes ATT, Bank of America, Home Depot and others.

Revels suggested that county staff could also consider adding protections in parts of the county code other than the housing section. "This is just the one section on housing, so there might be other areas," she said. 

County staff will examine the code of ordinances and return to the commission with proposals.

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