- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The citys Board of Supervisors has approved a measure that will make San Francisco the only city in the nation to pay for employees sex-change operations.
The measure offering benefits to city workers who want to switch their sex passed the board 9-2 Monday. The legislation now awaits the signature of Mayor Willie Brown, who has said he supports it.
"It is landmark legislation," Supervisor Mark Leno said. "This is not like losing ones hair."
San Francisco apparently will be the only governmental body in the nation to make the benefits available. The state of Minnesota offered similar benefits, but the program was phased out in 1998. Oregon decided against offering benefits in 1999.
An audience filled with transgenders and supporters wearing florescent green-and-pink stickers cheered and hugged after the votes were tallied.
"This is just one step against discrimination," said Theresa Sparks, a transgender commissioner at the city Human Rights Commission.
Supervisor Tony Hall opposed the benefits following Mondays three-hour debate. He had argued that sex reconstruction was elective surgery and the city shouldnt pay for transgender benefits without extending the coverage to those suffering from obesity and anorexia.
"To set one group apart and factionalize our society creates more animosity, more hatred, more bigotry," Mr. Hall said. "Once again, the city and county of San Francisco is paying for something that is not necessary."
The insurance would cover genital reconstruction, hormones and other medical matters such as hysterectomies and mastectomies for transgender individuals once doctors deemed the procedures medically necessary.
The measure includes a $50,000 lifetime cap for each employee.
San Francisco has 14 identified transgender employees out of its 37,000 workers. Male-to-female surgery typically costs about $37,000, and female-to-male surgery runs about $77,000. The benefits also would cover hormones and other procedures.
Employees will have to work for the city at least one year before becoming eligible. Those wanting sex-change surgery will have to pay 15 percent out of pocket if they use a doctor in the citys health network. If an out-of-network doctor is used, the expense goes up to 50 percent.
The term transgender covers a range of categories including cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals and those born with characteristics of both sexes.


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