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In Denton, Residents Call For City Council To Approve Ordinance To Protect LGBTQ People

Rob Upchurch
KERA News special contributor
Residents gathered at Denton City Hall on Tuesday to raise awareness about protections for LGBTQ people.

A grassroots group in Denton has been petitioning City Council members to enact a non-discrimination ordinance that would protect LGBTQ people.

A handful of Texas cities – including Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano – have similar ordinances in place. No federal or statewide anti-discrimination laws currently protect members of the LGBTQ community in Texas. 

The Denton City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to discuss non-discrimination ordinances in place in cities around the state – and offer staff direction on what next steps the city should take, including whether to draft its own ordinance.

A non-discrimination ordinance is designed to protect LGBTQ people against discrimination in employment and housing, among other things.

A group of people gathered at Denton City Hall on Tuesday to raise awareness of the issue. Among them: Denton resident Eden Hershey, who held a sign. 

”I would be able to live my life without the fear that my human rights were going to be trampled on, because there is no equality right now for people in Denton that are LGBTQIA+,” Hershey said.

Hershey has heard stories of discrimination taking place against LGBTQ people in Denton.

“I have seen people get refused for things such as apartments and other rights just because they are queer or trans, and I think it’s wrong,” Hershey said. “I have had friends who were denied applications for apartments – after they were told they were accepted – for bringing up that they were also going to have their partner live with them.” 

Amber Briggle – whose 12-year-old son is transgender – has been at the center of the movement to establish an ordinance in Denton. But she says her efforts are intended for all people, not just her son.

“This has been an ongoing conversation that many people in the community have been asking for,” Briggle said. “We are finally at a point where I feel like we have enough concerned citizens and momentum on the City Council to get this moved forward.”

Briggle says her family has faced discrimination when seeking medical treatment for her son.

“I would bring my son and my daughter in for a strep [throat] test on the same day, and for some reason later we would get this outstanding bill from the pediatrician that was hundreds of dollars more,” Briggle said. “Same children, same test, same doctor. Different bills, different experiences.”

Briggle said a non-discrimination ordinance would provide the LGBTQ community with equal rights under the law, not special privileges.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made a law that said ‘you cannot discriminate against someone based on their race, or based on their country of origin, or their religion,’ and there are federal protections for that, but they left out sexual orientation and gender identity,” Briggle said.

While the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Briggle said LGBTQ people are still at risk of discrimination. The court's ruling does not provide protections to LGBTQ employees or tenants.

“By getting married they are outing themselves, then they come home from their honeymoon and they found out they have both lost their jobs and they have been evicted from their apartment, and in Texas, unfortunately, that’s legal,” Briggle said. “They do not have any legal recourse to remedy this.”

Briggle says she knows people across the political spectrum who support Denton having its own ordinance.

 ”I don’t think equal rights is a Democrat or Republican issue,” she said. “It’s hard to hate up close.”