Transgender petition branded ‘anti-gay’


Timothy Bumgart, 11, holds signs to get residents to sign petitions to repeal the city’s transgender ordinance along NW 16th Avenue with his mother and siblings Tuesday.

AARON DAYE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 12:07 a.m.

The commercial shows a little girl on a playground walk into a bathroom. She is followed shortly after by a suspicious looking man.

A black screen flashes the words: “your City Commission made this legal.”

The advertisement has aired on local TV as part of an ad campaign against a portion of a city ordinance that protects the rights of transgender individuals. Organizers of the campaign, a group called Citizens for Good Public Policy, say they’re interested only in eliminating the transgender protection clause — which they say will allow sexual predators into public restrooms.

But city officials say the language of the group’s petition would deny discrimination protection to gays, lesbians and bisexuals as well.

“Regardless of whatever propaganda the petition collectors seem to be putting out there, that seems to be something that is sorely lacking — the information that if this referendum is passed, it will repeal both sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. This is really an anti-gay project.”

The petition currently being circulated would bar the city from offering resident protections beyond those included in Florida’s Civil Rights Act.

The Civil Rights Act does not mention sexual orientation or gender identity.

In January, commissioners, including Mastrodicasa, voted to include the phrase “gender identity” in the anti-discrimination ordinance that guarantees equal access to housing, employment, public accommodation and credit.

The inclusion sparked a whirlwind of opposition from conservatives, religious leaders and small business owners.

“This ordinance is so inclusive of everybody, including the hundreds of sexual predators that live in this community, not only the little 12 individuals who claim they have a sexual identity issue,” said Cain Davis, a member of the Alachua County Republican executive committee who is leading the effort to have the ordinance repealed. “It creates an opportunity that we don’t have to create for criminals.”

Citizens for Good Public Policy, led by Davis, has until July 29 to collect 5,581 signatures to place a charter amendment on the spring 2009 ballot.

If enough signatures are obtained, voters registered within city limits would have the final say on whether the city’s anti-discrimination policy goes too far by including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Davis said he estimates his organization needs about 2,000 more signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

The groups of people collecting signatures at businesses around the community insist they are only opposed to sections of the ordinance that allow transgender individuals to use bathrooms of their gender identity rather than born identity.

“This is not about being against a homosexual agenda, this is about looking out for the people in the city,” Davis said.

Commissioner Craig Lowe, who helped include “gender identity” in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, calls the tactics being used by Citizens for Good Public Policy “fear mongering” and “misinformation.”

Lowe, too, said the language of the petition would have the impact of repealing both gender identity and sexual orientation from the ordinance.

“There are false statements being made to hide the true effect of this petition,” Lowe said. “In fact someone could sign a petition (and be) contributing to an anti-gay effort without even realizing it.”

Davis said the petition drive is going well and that they have more volunteers than ever.

“Except for when you have the opposition coming up behind the volunteers . . . coming up screaming and yelling calling us hate mongers,” Davis said.

“We are going to get the petitions. It’s just that it’s amazing how the people who claim they are tolerant are totally intolerant of the people exercising their freedoms in this country.”

In 1994, the portion of Alachua County’s anti-discrimination ordinance that protected individuals regardless of their sexual orientation was revoked through a countywide referendum that was started via petitions.

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