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Fort Bend County Adds Protections for LGBTQ Workers

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression now listed in its equal employment opportunity policy.

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Fort Bend County added LGBTQ employee protections on September 10. Commissioner Ken DeMerchant revised the county’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy with the help of advocates (Facebook).

Fort Bend County, one of the most diverse counties in the nation, now has a worker non-discrimination policy that ensures protections for all employees and applicants. 

In a unanimous vote on September 10, the Fort Bend Commissioners Court approved revisions to explicitly add LGBTQ protections—including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression—in addition to at least 10 other characteristics to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy. County judge KP George (D), along with commissioners Vincent Morales (R), Grady Prestage (D), Andy Meyers (R), and Ken DeMerchant (D), all voted in favor of the pro-equality measure. 

Commissioner Ken DeMerchant

DeMerchant, who was elected last November to Fort Bend’s racially diverse county of over 750,000 (24.7 percent of the population is Hispanic, 21.1 percent is African American, 20.8 percent is Asian, and 32.5 percent is white non-Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), first proposed revisions to the county’s human resource policy. 

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” DeMerchant said in a statement. “I hope this will trickle down and be a model for the great State of Texas, because a more inclusive Fort Bend County is a stronger Fort Bend County.”

DeMerchant took to Facebook to credit attorney Fran Watson and GLBT Political Caucus president Mike Webb for their work in assisting DeMerchant propose the revisions. Watson thanked DeMerchant and Webb, along with Pride Houston president Lo Roberts several other LGBTQ activists for helping the measure pass in Fort Bend. 

In a GLBT Political caucus statement, Webb said Harris County commissioner Rodney Ellis—who recently helped Harris County add LGBTQ employee protections—provided the model for the policy revisions. 

“Houston and the metro area is truly progressive, welcoming, and inclusive of all our communities,” Webb said. “The fact that this was a unanimous vote proves that equality is a non-partisan issue.” 

Section 103 of Fort Bend’s employee information manual now reads: “Fort Bend County applies positive employment practices designed to ensure the full realization of equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion or creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy status (including childbirth and related medical conditions), national origin, ethnicity, citizenship status, age (40 and over), physical or mental disability, genetic information, protected military and veteran status, political affiliation or beliefs, or any other classification protected by state, federal and local laws unless such classification is a bona fide occupational qualification.”

Read a list of corrections made to Fort Bend’s Equal Employment Opportunity and their explanations here.

To watch the September 10 Fort Bend Commissioners Court meeting, visit www.fortbendcountytx.gov/government/departments/administration-of-justice/commissioners-court/live-streaming-video.

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is the managing editor of OutSmart magazine.

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