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University of Houston Clarifies Nondiscrimination Policy, Opens LGBT Resource Center

In 2003, UH student Josephine Tittsworth began working to extend UH’s nondiscrimination statement to include the phrase “gender identity or expression.” UH student Christopher Busby and professor Maria Gonzalez, aided Tittsworth in her efforts.

The administration of the University of Houston has issued a memo stating that the term “sex” in the university’s nondiscrimination statement includes protections for transgender individuals. Citing the 2008 court case, Lopez v. River Oaks Imaging and Diagnostic Group, the memo issued by the university’s legal department reaffirms the University of Houston’s commitment to upholding the same standard of discrimination protections as those outlined in Lopez.

“As you know, the university (as well as other campuses in our system) includes ‘sex’ in its nondiscrimination policy, and this should be adequate to provide protection for transgendered individuals who make a claim of sexual discrimination due to stereotyping on our campuses,” Dona Cornell, the university’s vice chancellor of legal affairs, wrote in the memo.

In 2005, Izza Lopez, a male-to-female transgender, was hired as a scheduler by River Oaks Imaging and Diagnostic Group. After learning that Lopez had been born male, River Oaks rescinded its offer of employment, saying that Lopez had misrepresented her gender in the interviewing process. A federal court ruled that Lopez had a viable claim of sexual discrimination under Title VII, based on sexual stereotyping.

“Although transgender individuals are not specifically identified as a protected class under Title VII, the court in Lopez explained that any employee (including a transgendered individual) is protected if they can demonstrate that they were discriminated against because they do not conform to traditional sex stereotypes,” Cornell continued in the memo. “This case provides a good analysis of the protections offered to our campus community, including those who are transgendered, through our nondiscrimination statement.”

Further underscoring its commitment to its LGBT community, the University of Houston opened a new LGBT resource center on February 10. The center is located within the main University Center, in the same office as the university’s Women’s Resource Center. A director who will work as an LGBT liaison to the University of Houston administration is currently being sought by university officials. —Nancy Ford


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