In Jen Colletta’s recent article, SEPTA general manager Joe Casey remarkably and disingenuously asserted that the process of removing the gender markers was somehow “expedited” because of a complaint by a SEPTA rider. Mr. Casey even suggested that SEPTA has long valued the diversity of its ridership.
In stark contrast to these representations, however, lies the reality of SEPTA’s all-out legal assault on not only transgender rights, but also more broadly on all LGBT rights in the City of Philadelphia. After charges of discrimination were lodged against SEPTA by Ms. Arcila and other LGBT individuals in Philadelphia, SEPTA turned around and sued the City and the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission, claiming that the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance did not apply to SEPTA, and suggesting that it only had to abide by statewide discrimination laws. Since sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected at the state level, this posture would allow SEPTA to blatantly and legally discriminate against LGBT riders, as well as its own LGBT employees. If this position were accepted as valid, SEPTA could literally fire all of its LGBT employees or deny rides to LGBT Philadelphians without concern for being sued. Make no mistake about it: This was not simply a posture that they took in Ms. Arcila’s case. At this time, they have continued to assert their alleged right to discriminate against LGBT individuals all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where the matter is currently awaiting a ruling!
For these reasons, I felt compelled to clarify that while SEPTA’s actions regarding the gradual implementation of the most blatant of its discriminatory actions is certainly a step in the right direction, there is still much more work to be done to truly ensure that, as SEPTA’s Mr. Casey asserts, all customers are treated with respect and dignity.
— David M. Rosenblum, Esq.
Legal director, Mazzoni Center