Council approves legislation aimed at eliminating barriers to full inclusion of LGBTQ community
Inclusion can take shape in many forms, with one step including the recognition that all residents do not conform to a specific gender identity or sexual orientation. The Metropolitan King County Council today adopted legislation calling for the creation of a task force to develop recommendations related to administrative processes and gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Gender identity is complex and often misunderstood, however this doesn’t mean we can’t affirm there is diversity in how gender is defined,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, prime sponsor of the motion. “Serious discrimination and mistreatment has impacted these communities, due in part to ignorance and misinformation. Today’s motion addresses inequities we must eliminate to make King County a more welcoming and inclusive government for all our constituents.”
“By establishing this task force we will be able to more effectively serve individuals who for far too long have faced discrimination and enormous barriers to civic participation,” said motion co-sponsor Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “This task force will provide our county an opportunity to look back on how some of our past policies may not have best served people who have not been comfortable or able to conform to a specific gender identity or sexual orientation while at the same time develop new ways to carry us toward a more inclusive future.”
This year, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) adopted a rule change that established requirements for individuals to request a change to the sex designation on their birth certificates from male or female to a third option. DOH made the change to provide individuals with an option to have a birth certificate that better reflects their gender identity.
“We must recognize that gender identity and sexual orientation has many forms, and individuals who do not conform to the traditional definitions have faced discrimination for far too long,” said Council Chair and co-sponsor Joe McDermott. “The creation of this task force will give the County the opportunity to look at how we might change policies to ensure that those individuals are better supported.”
“Government should represent all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, motion co-sponsor. “By approving this task force, we are saying that all people matter to King County. I look forward to seeing the proposed plan.”
The adopted motion calls for the formation of a task force that will develop a recommended countywide gender identity and sexual orientation inclusion strategy and workplan. It will focus on developing a proposed plan to implement the use of an additional gender designation or designations in all appropriate administrative processes, such as forms, questionnaires, and interviews conducted by County personnel.
The objectives of the task force will include:
• Consulting with county departments and community groups to assess existing King County administrative processes regarding gender identity and sexual orientation,
• Identifying processes suitable for modification and consider potential complications if a process gathers information used by other government agencies,
• Developing a recommended statement of intent to address gender identity and sexual orientation inclusion in identified King County administrative processes,
• Making training recommendations for county employees to achieve excellent customer service and address concerns of task force members.
“As one of the nation's oldest trans run organizations we know all too well the disparate impacts of not being counted,” said Karter Booher, Executive Director of Ingersoll Gender Center. “We are excited to work in collaboration with King County and our community partners to provide ways for our communities to be counted because we know that being counted is the first of many steps in better identifying problems and supporting community driven solutions.”
“This is a wonderful next step in an ongoing project of understanding around transgender, gender identity and sexual orientation issues,” said long-time LGBTQ activist Marsha Botzer. “I am most grateful to Councilmember Dembowski for bringing this forward to the full attention of the public.”
The members of the task force will analyze and present recommendations not only on the contents of paper and electronic forms, but also on the personal experience of gender nonconforming, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals when accessing County administrative services.