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Largo fires Stanton

[UPDATE: A joint statement by National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, Equality Florida, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is after the jump.]

“I’m asking you to realize I’m still the same person today that I was four weeks ago. I’m asking you to judge me on my qualifications and performance and the fact that this organization is the best run organization in Pinellas County.”
— Steve Stanton, who lost a battle to keep his job after announcing his decision to begin transition to become a woman. The commission vote was 5-2.

The Largo City Commission didn’t do the right thing. (St. Pete Times):

The vote was identical to one taken Feb. 27 and came after a six-hour meeting including four hours of public testimony, most of it urging the commission to save Stanton’s job.

“I was optimistic, but realistic that it was going to be very difficult to slow down the train,” Stanton, 48, said after the vote. He said he has made no decision about whether he’ll take additional legal action.

The commissioners clearly had no grasp that discrimination they exhibited in this decision is based on a level of ignorance that is breathtaking.

But in the end, commissioners said that they lost their trust in him and that he didn’t meet the leadership standards he set for employees.

“I will tell you it is not about transgenderism,” said Commissioner Gay Gentry. “It is about making sure that the 1,000 people who work in the city, work in such a way that they can give superior services for the 75,000 people who live in this city. I tried to vote the right way for the right reasons.”

Commissioner Andy Guyette said honesty, integrity and trust were the foundations of their relationship with him and that “without trust, there is no longer a foundation to any relationship.”

…Mayor Bob Jackson, said Stanton created a culture of fear. “You need to listen to what the residents are telling you in Largo and they’re telling you it’s time for a change in city management,” Jackson said.

What? Who is creating a culture of fear — Stanton is the one being pilloried, losing his job, and having his life turned upside down by the ignorance of others. How is this about trust? Stanton will be the same person as Susan as he currently is as Steve — the capabilities, the professional demeanor, none of that changes.

The only change seems to be in the definition in the minds of these people who opposed Stanton’s continued employment is that if only they had known about Stanton’s personal medical decision before hiring him, they wouldn’t have offered him the job. This is sad, but in the end quite revealing about the level of bigotry and ignorance about gender identity — and why ENDA is needed.

The hearing was packed and event-filled — including a bomb scare — with 90 minutes of testimony from Stanton’s team, and over 100 members of the public who came to speak, most in support of Stanton. There were 300 supporters in attendance wearing “Don’t Discriminate” shirts given out by Equality Florida.

Among those supporting Stanton’s case were Susan Kimberly, former deputy mayor of St. Paul, Minn., who started living as a woman in 1983; and Margaret Stumpp, chief investment officer for Quantitative Investment Management Associates, who transitioned from man to woman five years ago while keeping her job overseeing $60-billion in investments.

Stanton’s case also included comments by Dr. Walter Bockting, associate professor at University of Minnesota Medical School and a specialist in transexualism. He said gender identity disorder isn’t something people can change.

Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, Equality Florida, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force denounced the discriminatory action of the Largo, Florida City Commission for violating its own nondiscrimination policy as well as state and federal law by firing long time City Manager Steve Stanton after learning that Stanton is transgender. Stanton is one of the most successful and accomplished City Managers in the country and has loyally served the City of Largo for nearly two decades. The Commission’s decision to terminate is a stunning demonstration of bias and intolerance. By choosing discrimination over inclusiveness, the City Commissioners failed Stanton and failed their city. Stanton, who is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, will announce next week whether he intends to pursue litigation.

Daryl Herrschaft, director of the Workplace Project at the Human Rights Campaign, testified at the final hearing in Largo on Friday night in support of City Manager Stanton. View his testimony here.

Other Blend posts on this case:
* Public hearing on Largo, FL city manager Stanton’s fate is tonight 
* Largo, FL city manager talks about trans discrimination that resulted in firing 
* Largo, FL officials vote to dismiss trans city manager
* Equality Florida activist in Largo arrested for handing out anti-discrimination flyers
* Fired trans city manager in Largo has support and possible grounds for lawsuit
* Largo, FL city manager Stanton fighting to keep job

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Pam Spaulding

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