PHILADELPHIA – It's a Wednesday night, and Chuck is turning into Melanie. For Chuck, a cross-dressing entertainer, it's just another night of work at a Philadelphia nightclub.
But many other businesses in town might not be so understanding about Chuck's sartorial habits. That's why the Philadelphia City Council recently passed a bill protecting cross-dressers as well as people undergoing sex-change operations from on-the-job discrimination. Mayor John Street is expected to sign the bill next week.
"It gives them a safety net to step out of the cocoon that a lot of them are in," said Charlene Moore, a transgender advocate.
Philadelphia is not alone. More than 30 cities around the country, including New York, have passed similar legislation. But some opponents to the legislation have strong objections and say the government shouldn't be able to tell employers who they can hire or fire.
"This is also going to be a nightmare for employers. Can you imagine a guy that comes in for an interview, he's hired, he comes in Monday but he wants to be a woman that day?" asked William Devlin, president of the Urban Family Council, based in Philadelphia. "Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he's a man. Tuesday and Thursday, he's a woman. This is lawsuit galore."
Critics say the measure will limit the ability of businesses to dictate how and what their employees wear to work. Bar owner Dennis O'Connor said he feels like the government is telling him how to run his business.
"I wouldn't have a problem hiring anyone as long as it didn't affect my business. I'm not going to hire someone if I think its going to cost me business," O'Connor said.
But for Marcus Iannozzi, who used to be a woman, it's about giving people like him the same protections as everybody else.
"What it means is anyone who is transgendered and it is disclosed that they're a transsexual, they'll be able to keep their job," Iannozzi said.
Rumblings of lawsuits are already surfacing, and Philadelphia may become the legal testing ground for this new breed of anti-discrimination laws.