“Gender identity and expression” officially protected now in City of Ithaca

Last night’s Ithaca Common Council meeting included the State of the City address from Mayor Svante Myrick and approval of almost $8 million in bond debt, but it also added “gender identity and expression” as a protected class in city code.

City staff and lawmakers have spent the last couple of months producing updated language that’s clear and consistent across all sections of City of Ithaca policy and law, Common Council member and acting mayor Deborah Mohlenhoff tells us. This morning, she says no one stepped forward to chime in during the public comment opportunity at last night’s Common Council meeting, and the three anti-discrimination resolutions on the agenda passed unanimously.

“Several years ago the term ‘gender identity or expression’ was included as part of a revision from the Workforce Diversity Committee, but it was only changed in that one workplace policy document and not throughout the code,” she explained to us yesterday.

City officials caught the discrepancy when copying the anti-discrimination clause from the City web site to prepare a proclamation for an Ithaca Is Love event last summer. “We realized that the non-discrimination clause used in various sections of the City [code] had several different versions,” Mohlenhoff says.

“We found 12 or so different lists with regard to our non-discrimination clause — one has age, one didn’t; one had weight, one didn’t, etc. So, in addition to the deep dive about use of the term gender, we also wanted that paragraph to be the same wherever we used it,” she adds.

The code already had anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies in place, and already protected transgender people, but last night’s agenda items were designed to clarify and make the code consistent.

Multiple sections of City code were amended last night to prohibit discrimination or harassment based on “actual or perceived age; creed; color; disability; domestic violence victim status; ethnicity; familial status; gender; gender identity or expression; height; immigration or citizenship status; marital status; military status; national origin; predisposing genetic characteristics; race; religion; sex; sexual orientation; socioeconomic status; or weight.”

One of our readers expressed concern on yesterday’s article that officers from the Ithaca Police Department have told her to “just walk away” when she has attempted to report incidents of anti-gay harassment. IPD Chief of Police John R. Barber and Mayor Myrick, who oversees the police force, have not responded to requests for comment.

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