Commissioner John Wiley Price undecided on protecting transgender county workers

John Wiley Price

Commissioner John Wiley Price says he remains undecided about adding gender identity to Dallas County’s employment nondiscrimination policy.

Price, a member of the court’s Democratic majority, represents the possible third and deciding vote in favor of transgender protections for the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two newly elected Democrats who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy last month, have said they mistakenly believed that transgender employees were covered under sexual orientation. Upon learning that they are not, Jenkins requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about the impact of adding gender identity to the policy.

But even if the DA’s office concludes that there would be no negative impact, Jenkins and Garcia need at least one more vote to get the transgender protections passed, and Price is viewed as the most likely source.

“I still don’t know,” Price said when asked if he’d vote for the addition of gender identity to the policy after Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Commissioners Court.

Price added that Maeve O’Connor, a transgender woman who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, had done more to possibly sway him in favor of the change than anything else. Watch video of O’Connor’s comments above.

O’Connor, a board member for Resource Center Dallas, and Oliver Blumer, vice chairman of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, both addressed the court Tuesday, as LGBT advocates spoke during public comments for the third consecutive week.

O’Connor told the court that from the age of 4 or 5, she knew something was wrong with her anatomically and felt more comfortable around girls.

“I would go to bed at night praying to God to make things right and to correct me,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor finally had sexual reassignment surgery last year after her wife passed away in her arms on their 17th wedding anniversary in 2009.

Her wife had breast cancer and was covered under O’Connor’s health insurance at work. The fear of being fired kept O’Connor from transitioning any sooner.

“I was not willing to risk losing my job and my ability to care for her,” O’Connor told the Commissioners Court. “I loved her that much.”

After Blumer spoke on behalf of TENT and Youth First Texas, Jenkins inquired about whether bullying against transgender youth is a problem.

When Blumer said yes, Jenkins asked what percentage of LGBT youth are transgender. Blumer estimated that 50 percent of youth who come to YFT are non-gender-conforming, and invited commissioners to visit the center anytime.

After the meeting, Price indicated a desire to see specific examples of discrimination against transgender county employees. He also seemed unsure about how gender-identity protections would be applied.

Jenkins, meanwhile, said he’s still awaiting the impact statement from the DA’s Office.

Rafael McDonnnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas, said he plans to continue to arrange speakers from the LGBT community at Commissioners Court meetings. Under court rules, each person can speak only once a month.

Two openly gay Dallas County elected officials, District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons and Sheriff Lupe Valdez, already have transgender employment protections for their respective departments.

If you’d like to contact Price and other commissioners and encourage them to add gender identity to the policy, their information is below.

County Judge Clay Jenkins – 214-653-7949
Email: Clay.Jenkins@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 1 Maurine Dickey – 214-653-7552
Email: Maurine.Dickey@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 2 Mike Cantrell – 214-653-6100
Email: MCantrell@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 3 John Wiley Price – 214-653-6671
Email: John.Price@DallasCounty.org

Dist. 4 Dr. Elba Garcia – 214-653-6670
Email: Elba.GarciaDDS@DallasCounty.org

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