Sarasota News Leader

03/14/2014

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Ken Shelin urged the County Commission in October 2013 to approve a Domestic Partnership Registry. File photo What is next for a proposal to ban discrimina- tion based on sexual orientation in Sarasota County? That is a looming question as the county's domestic partnership registration goes into effect. Responding to pressure from local LGBT rights activist Julia Nowak, County Commissioner Carolyn Mason was the first board mem- ber to take action on Nowak's proposal for a countywide human rights ordinance. Last November, Mason brought up the concept and asked County Attorney Steve DeMarsh to examine the issue and deliver a report on how other cities and counties have dealt with the issue. The commission now has that report. Dated March 3, it lays out the status of anti-LGBT discrimination laws, noting that neither the federal nor state government offers statutory protection for gays and lesbians in employ- ment and housing. "Local Human Rights Ordinances generally add protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation typically defined as an individual's actual or perceived homosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, gender identity, or expression," the report states. In 2003, the City of Sarasota adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protection for gays and lesbians, the report notes. The city also created an all-volunteer seven-member Human Relations Board to handle complaints. If a complaint is deemed valid, the board can then grant the victim a "Notice of Right to Sue." WILL SARASOTA COUNTY ACT ON AN ORDINANCE TO PROTECT GAYS AND LESBIANS FROM DISCRIMINATION? LGBT RIGHTS ON THE TABLE By Cooper Levey-Baker Associate Editor

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