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Black on pink buttons imprinted with the phrase “The State Bar of Texas discriminates” were ready for distribution and plans were in the works to hand out leaflets protesting the Bar’s refusal to protect certain groups from employment discrimination, but the protest at the annual meeting in Austin didn’t materialize. Leaders of the Bar’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section say they’re satisfied with the Bar board of directors’ 22-6 vote on June 14 to revise the Bar’s policy manual to include a clause prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Although the board’s action doesn’t cover everything that the SOGII section requested, Houston lawyer Phyllis Frye, immediate past chairwoman of the section, says the group scored a victory. “What happened was a big win and not what we had expected,” Frye says. In June 2000, the 3-year-old SOGII section proposed a resolution that included sexual orientation and gender identification in the manual’s listing of protected groups to assure that Bar employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender do not face discrimination on the job. But the proposal originally did not receive support from the Bar board’s Policy Manual Committee. Claude Ducloux, of Austin, Texas’ Hill, Ducloux, Carnes & Clark and chairman of the Policy Manual Committee, told the board in January that his committee voted against recommending the change. On June 14, Ducloux recommended that the nondiscrimination policy be expanded to cover sexual orientation. A number of state agencies in Texas already have such a policy, he says. But the Bar board did not include gender identification in the list of protected groups. Dick Miller, immediate past chairman of the Bar board, says its inclusion isn’t necessary. “My opinion is that sexual orientation would include gender identification,” says Miller, a San Saba, Texas sole practitioner. Richard Clarkson, the new chairman of the SOGII section, says the general rule is that a broader term in a rule or statute includes designations that fall under that umbrella term. The comments made by Bar leaders indicate their intent that the term sexual orientation cover gender identification and other subdivisions, he says. “That is certainly what I would argue in a law court if such an issue came up,” says Clarkson, an appellate lawyer and associate at Reaud, Morgan & Quinn in Beaumont, Texas. Kent Sullivan, a member of the Policy Manual Committee, spoke against the resolution and said the board shouldn’t expand the Bar’s liability in its personnel policy by saying anything more than the agency would abide by all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations. Sullivan, a shareholder in Houston’s Lanier, Parker & Sullivan, says that favoring or disfavoring certain groups in an employment policy appears to him to turn the policy into a political document. “When we begin looking at this in a political way, we’ve done a disservice,” he says. Miller says the Bar has not engaged in employment discrimination in the past. “In a way, this was a tempest in a teapot, but it did make some employees of the Bar probably feel more comfortable, and we are all for making people feel more comfortable,” he says. The board also added military service/veteran status to the list of groups protected under the nondiscrimination policy.

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