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Victory Over Transphobia in Gainesville

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March 26, 2009

Yesterday, the residents of Gainesville, Florida, soundly defeated an effort to repeal a city ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. With turnout nearly double that of a typical city election, voters rejected Amendment 1, which would have reversed a discrimination ban passed by the city council, by a stunning 58 percent to 42 percent margin. Go Gainesville!

What makes the victory sweeter is that the proponents of Amendment 1, the deceptively named Citizen for Good Public Policy PAC, had pushed the initiative using scare tactics preying on public ignorance of and misconceptions about transgender people. Instead of talking about what the law did do — protect LGBT people from being fired, denied housing or refused service simply for being who they are — they made up something that the law did not do: allow male pedophiles to hang out in women’s washrooms.

That was what the whole Amendment 1 campaign became about. “Keep men out of women’s restrooms!” The LGBT citizens of Gainesville were trying to make sure they wouldn’t live in fear of being fired or kicked out of their apartments and the opposition was making up lies about the bathroom. Today Jim Gilbert, a spokesperson for CGPP, even said he was proud of the group for focusing so consistently on trumpeting this lie in their efforts to deny basic protections for gay and trans people.

Fortunately, the fine folks of Gainesville were not duped by the falsehood or the diversion CGPP was trying to create. Unfortunately, Gainesville is not the only place where anti-LGBT forces are trying to stop basic fairness with this type of lie. Already in New Hampshire and Maryland we’ve seen elected officials get pelted with the “keep men out of the ladies’ room” myth while trying to pass protections for transgender people.

The results of this election should serve as a lesson to anti-LGBT activists and politicians across the country: you can keep trying to sell your sad, transphobic story, but most people aren’t going to buy it. Voters know that anti-discrimination laws are about ensuring fairness and that this kind of fear mongering is just a desperate attempt to distract from the real issue. So let’s hope we can lay this tired tale to rest.

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