After heated debate, last night the Fort Worth City Council voted 6-3 to expand employment discrimination protections to include transgender persons. Outside the building, pro and anti-gay activists clashed and nearly came to blows. Reportedly, the city’s human relations committee was working on adding transgender protections before the recent embarrassment over the Rainbow Lounge raid.
More than 200 people packed the council chambers, lining the walls and spilling into overflow rooms. “We believe, as you do, that we should respect each other,” said Jon Nelson of Fairness Fort Worth. “The foundation of these recommendations isn’t preferential treatment, it’s equal treatment.” Three transgender people — two transsexual women and a cross-dressing man — were among those who spoke in favor of the ordinance. “Being a transgender person has nothing to do with a person’s ability to do their job,” Victoria Van Fleet said. Conservative protesters saw the proposals as violating traditional morals. “Is it our city’s responsibility to take taxpayer money and promote a lifestyle based on sexual preference or gender identity?” asked Richard Clough, a Republican activist. Ron Armstrong stood on top of his Bible in front of City Hall to symbolize that he was “standing on the word of God. “The law says clearly no man is supposed to lie with a man the way he lies with a woman,” he said.
The Dallas Voice reports on the scene outside.
LGBT protesters and anti-gay counterprotesters clashed outside Fort Worth City Hall this evening in a tense scene that nearly became violent. There were no arrests or major physical altercations, but there was plenty of taunting and some heated verbal exchanges. Participants from both sides later accused the other of elbowing and pushing, and one of the counterprotesters admitted to ripping a gay Pride flag. The drama unfolded shortly after 5 p.m. with TV news cameras rolling. Fort Worth police officers looked on from a distance but did nothing to separate the two factions, which each appeared to number about a dozen.
Commenters on the Dallas Voice article report that the protesting ministers were from Eagle Mountain International Church. The church’s 2008 voter guide (PDF) includes calls to oppose allowing gay Pride parades in Fort Worth, to support anti-marriage equality amendments in Florida and California, and to oppose “homosexual education” and fairness in hiring.