Without fanfare or controversy, the city of Waco has quietly agreed to bar discrimination against city employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
City Manager Dale Fisseler said Monday he has made an administrative decision to add sexual orientation and sexual identity to the city’s internal personnel policy on nondiscrimination.
The policy already bars discrimination based on the federally recognized categories of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, marital status and disability.
“All I’m doing is updating our internal policy . . . just to clarify that we don’t discriminate based on sexual preference and identity,” Fisseler said.
A handful of local pro-LGBT activists, led by Paul Derrick and Carmen Saenz, had been seeking the change since 2013.
The city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee last summer recommended the policy revision. Then-City Manager Larry Groth turned it down, saying in a February letter that the city has never had a grievance or complaint about LGBT discrimination.
“I believe the policies clearly convey the message to our employees that discrimination and/or harassment is not allowed to any class even without a list,” he wrote to the advisory committee.
But Fisseler, who succeeded Groth in March, said his correspondence with Derrick in the last month gave him reason to reconsider.
“I agreed with Larry at the time, but I’ve been offered some additional information I don’t think he had,” Fisseler said.
Fisseler was city manager in Fort Worth in 2009 when the city council there passed a much more sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance that gave LGBT residents protections not only in municipal employment but private-sector employment, housing and public accommodations.
Saenz, who worked with Derrick on the Waco policy, said she ultimately would like to see a broad nondiscrimination ordinance in Waco, but she thought it necessary to take smaller steps.
Saenz, a psychology professional who identifies as lesbian, said she hasn’t experienced discrimination in Waco, but in the last year she has heard from city employees who feel pressure at work to keep their same-sex relationships a secret.
“The bigger picture is that we wanted to show that the city of Waco treats everyone equally,” she said. “It reflects to the state and the country that we don’t discriminate. It’s good for business, and it’s good for kids growing up gay, lesbian or trans that this is a place where you can live your life authentically and go to work.”
See here and here for the background. I confess, I lost track of this after the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee voted to recommend the change – I just assumed it had been adopted. My bad there. Be that as it may, this is a nice step forward after the victory in Houston, and I too hope that once the locals realize that the earth is still spinning on its axis a push can be made to adopt a similar comprehensive ERO for Waco as well.