Was 2013 the year for cities to recognize transgender rights?
This past Election Day, voters in Royal Oak, Mich., said yes to a human rights ordinance that for the first time in the small city’s history made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as other identifiers.
With this locally contentious but nationally overlooked ballot win, Royal Oak became the sixth American city this year to put such a law on the books, following Linden, Mich.; San Antonio, Texas; Sacramento, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz. and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In total, there are at least over 190 municipalities with fully inclusive nondiscrimination laws on the books, but what is notable about these recent additions is that none are places with a particularly strong or visible queer community. The movement is broadening beyond its coastal, big-city roots and hitting places where a decade ago, even talking about sexuality in City Hall would be a reach.
For transgender advocates, the legislative wins in small and mid-sized cities are important victories on the road to full equality. Not everyone can or wants to live in the Bay Area or New York and wherever people are, they deserve protection. In a June interview, Allison VanKuiken, campaign manager for One Royal Oak (the non-profit organization behind the push to pass Proposal A) told The Oakland Press that local human rights ordinances are a matter of “fairness”—especially in Michigan where the state’s anti-discrimination law only lists race, sex, national origin, age, height, weight, familial/martial status, and religion as protected classes. Since the summer, One Royal Oak volunteers canvassed the streets and made phone calls to educate voters about the ordinance and its purpose, as well as dispel misinformation that the law was already in effect at that time…