EDITORIAL: York City leads with gender bill

York Dispatch

The sad thing is that in 2015, we still need these kind of regulations.

York City Councilman Michael Helfrich on Tuesday will introduce two bills to the council that will explicitly add people with nonconforming gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination ordinances.

After the summer of Caitlyn Jenner and "Transparent," transgender people have come to a new prominence. And that can put them in jeopardy of losing their jobs or homes or even being told to leave public accommodations.

Any of that would be legal in Pennsylvania, where the state anti-discrimination law doesn't even protect people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. Across the country, only 20 states do so, mainly in the New England area, the West Coast and a surprising block in the northern Midwest, according to the ACLU. Seventeen of those states protect from discrimination based on gender identity.

And that protection is something that transgender people need. According to the Human Rights Campaign, between 20 percent and 57 percent of transgender people reported some form of employment discrimination, ranging from being harassed or denied a promotion to being fired.

It's estimated that about 0.3 percent of American adults, or about 700,000 people across the country, are transgender, according to The New York Times.

York City added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination ordinance years ago, and gender identity has been protected under that provision, Helfrich said.

But that needs to evolve along with our understanding of the many facets of human sexual orientation and gender, Helfrich said.

"Gender identity has to do with how you feel about yourself," he said. "Sexual orientation is who you're attracted to sexually."

York City remains the only municipality in York County that protects people against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and adding gender identity to that would be another step in the right direction.

A bigger step would be for more places in the county or for the entire state to take the same path and start protecting all of the citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation or personal gender identity.

It's not fair to have to hide who you are for fear of losing your job or finding yourself without a home.

York City is blazing the trail to doing the right thing. Others should begin to follow.