By BREANNE GILPATRICK
Transgender people and pregnant women are now protected groups in Broward County after the County Commission voted to make it illegal to deny housing or jobs to those two groups.
With Tuesday's vote, Broward joins a growing number of local governments across the nation to include ''gender identity and expression'' in their non-discrimination laws. And the two new criteria will join 11 other categories in the county's Human Rights Act, such as gender, race, color, marital status and sexual orientation.
And Tuesday, one-by-one, more than 20 speakers took the podium and praised commissioners for adding Broward to the list. And many of them arrived before the county to share their own tales of discrimination, like LeAnna Bradley, who talked about what it was like to have paramedics refer to her as ''it'' while riding to the hospital. Or Jacqui Charvet, who lost her job after telling her boss she was going to start the medical process to become a woman. Or Nikki Hatch, who described receiving stares, rude comments and even, at one point, a mail bomb.
There are no statistics that track the number of transgender people. But advocates estimate that between 3 and 5 percent of people in Broward County struggle with gender identity. Many of those who decide to make a transition, say advocates, face trouble with employers and landlords.
While no one spoke against the changes on Tuesday, in the past, critics say the new laws are not needed and say they view it as wrong for transgender residents to try to redefine gender.