Transsexual police officer wins bias suit

BY Advocate.com Editors

March 01 2003 1:00 AM ET

A federal court jury has awarded $320,511 to a transsexual police officer who said the city of Cincinnati discriminated against her. The jury on Wednesday ordered the city to pay back wages and damages to
Philecia Barnes, formerly Phillip Barnes, a police officer for 22 years and a former Marine Corps sergeant. Barnes, 43, said Thursday that she will request a court order to force the city to reinstate her as a police sergeant. She became a probationary sergeant for six months in 1999, then was demoted to an officer's rank. City officials haven't said whether they will appeal the jury verdict. Police chief Thomas Streicher said his department didn't discriminate against Barnes. Lt. Kurt Byrd, a police spokesman, declined comment Thursday on the jury verdict.

Barnes notified the city two years ago that she had changed her name and considered herself to be a woman, her lawyers said. Barnes said Thursday that she had begun identifying as a woman long before that. "This process started almost 11 years ago," she said at a news conference on the steps of city hall. "It doesn't happen overnight." Barnes said the city, in denying her promotion to sergeant, discriminated against her and violated her constitutional right to equal protection under the law. Her lawyers asked U.S. district judge Susan Dlott on Thursday for an order to protect her against additional discrimination by the city.

Barnes is challenging a charter amendment that forbids the city to enact or enforce any policy or law based on sexual orientation. Her lawyers say the amendment should not be applied to city employees because it allows discrimination against employees who don't fit gender stereotypes.

Phil Burress, who led a coalition that lobbied voters to approve the amendment, said the coalition would consider fighting Barnes's challenge. "It's quite scary to think that a person carrying a gun does not know if they're a man or a woman," Burress said Thursday. "We're dealing with a person here who has a mental disorder." Barnes's lawyer, Alphonse Gerhardstein, said of Burress, "I feel sorry for him."

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