At least the first-term councilman did for six squirming minutes during a Tuesday afternoon committee hearing on the city of Sacramento’s evolving non-discrimination policies.
Sacramento used to be cutting edge on the equality front, enacting a domestic partnership law way back in 1992, when others were still writing “Adam and Steve” on picket signs. But with California’s marriage equality law surviving a U.S. Supreme Court challenge and other municipalities making their own progressive inroads, the capital city has fallen a little behind. A national evaluation of local laws affecting the LGBT community issued Sacramento a middling score of 79 percent.
“I guess if there’s a lesson to be learned, we can’t rest on our laurels,” Councilman Steve Cohn said at the hearing. “That leadership needs to be ongoing. It can’t be something we just assume over the years.”
As part of a package of recommendations made by the committee this week, Sacramento would sunset its domestic partnership law in three years, directing same-sex couples registered in the city to apply for superior state benefits or get married. Smaller updates include adding gender identity expression to a whole number of city codes and changing the term “handicap” to “disability.”
“This puts Sacramento back in the forefront, in the leadership position it used to be in,” said Geoffrey Kors of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which worked on the amendments.
Before the committee could take a vote, however, Warren wanted clarity on who could use what bathroom. The ensuing discussion—filled with stammering pauses, inelegant phrasing and many an abandoned thought—was a lesson in how tricky it can be to express ignorance in a public forum.
“Well, I apologize for being so naïve about this issue,” a sheepish Warren said at one point. “I’m asking these questions because I want to know.”
Kors and intergovernmental relations officer Randi L. Knott, the city’s newly appointed LGBT liaison, took turns explaining that people self-select the bathrooms they use, and that it’s not illegal for a man who identifies as a woman to use a women’s restroom, or vice versa. Kors pointed out that that’s been the case in California for a while now, without “incidents or issues of any kind.”
(A recent state law that allows schoolchildren to use the restroom of the gender they identify with has proven more controversial, Knott said, “but it is state law.”)
“Sure,” Warren replied, wrapping up his inquiry. “I haven’t heard of any issues. Again, I apologize for having this discussion in this format, but I just am probably not as aware of these issues as some of you are.”
That’s OK, council member. We’re all learning here.