Transgender Protections Added to City’s Housing Law
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point Public Protection Committee on Monday unanimously approved a change to the city’s fair housing ordinance by including specific protections for transgender citizens.
The request drew no objections on Aug. 14.
Movement behind the amendment came from Plover resident Robert Steinke, a local advocate for gay and transgender rights. Steinke ran an unsuccessful bid for Portage Co. Board Supervisor in 2015, and another for the Stevens Point School Board in late 2016.
As he addressed the committee, Steinke quoted Shakespeare’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech from The Merchant of Venice — his way of highlighting the importance of equal rights.
“In our human flesh, we are all the same,” Steinke said. “Though we are the same, the powers that be must act for the well-being of not only its citizens, but everyone whom they may interact with, be that taxpayers, tourists, neighbors, individuals who may come to their community for employment, and other guests.”
Ald. Mary Kneebone also voiced support for the cause, quoting the 14th Amendment, which provides equal protection under the law.
City Attorney Andrew Beveridge said the change was an easy one to make, consisting of “just a small handful of words,” but added it gave clarity to an ordinance that was “otherwise quite detailed”.
Ald. Mary McComb said her own research found that 22 percent of transgender people reported some form of housing discrimination, based on information from the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Until the change becomes official next week, the city’s ordinance reads in part, “all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, ancestry, national origin, handicap, age, lawful source of income, families with children, gender or marital status of the person maintaining the household or sexual orientation, are entitled to fair and equal access to housing…”
Inclusion of the phrase “gender identity or gender expression” into the ordinance gave more clarity within city law, supporters said.
The measure now moves on to the full City Council on Aug. 21 at 7 PM.