Transgender job discrimination bill clears Senate

The Nevada Senate narrowly approved a bill Wednesday expanding employment anti-discrimination protections to include gender identity and expression, after the same bill passed the full Assembly with a wide margin.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, says Nevada joins 13 other states to include transgender discrimination in employment protections. State law already bars discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation and other attributes.

"Nevada has a proud history of protecting the personal liberty of its citizens," said Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas. "It's time to extend that liberty and protection to those individuals."

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer of Reno was the sole Republican to support the bill in the 11-10 vote, saying he didn't like telling businesses what to do, but "discrimination offends my sense of right and wrong."

Because of a Senate amendment, the bill now goes back to the Assembly for final approval before heading to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has not indicated whether he will sign the measure.

The Senate vote came the same day that members of the Assembly considered two other bills on transgender issues. SB331 prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in any place of "public accommodation," such as a store, bar or restaurant. It passed the Senate last month 11-10.

The bill still allows businesses to stage gender-based promotions and sales, such as Ladies Night.

Lauren Scott of advocacy group Equality Nevada said the bill's intent is that people could take advantage of "ladies drink free"-type promotions if they legally changed their gender, but not if they simply dressed the part to get a deal.

Assembly members also heard SB368, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people in housing transactions such as renting or selling a home. That bill already cleared the Senate by a 13-8 margin.

Votes on the measures are scheduled for next week.

Three of four bills dealing with transgender discrimination are still alive in the Nevada Legislature. The fourth, which would have added transgender people to a list of protected classes in hate crime law, narrowly failed in the Senate.

Lawmakers say hearings on the issues are far less contentious than they were last session.

"Bills like this are not only necessary, but have tremendous symbolic importance," said Nevada ACLU Executive Director Dane Claussen, "because it reflects where we are today as we move toward a more perfect union."


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