MEDINA — The city is one step closer to adopting nondiscrimination laws that will protect people’s rights regardless of sexual orientation and expression.
The Special Legislation Committee unanimously passed two ordinances Monday night, much to the delight of the 100 people in the audience in the Council rotunda at City Hall.
Ordinances 541.08 and 717 will now move onto City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday and then full Council on July 8 for possible approval.
Councilman At-Large Bill Lamb, chairman of the Special Legislation Committee, said previously it would be a “black eye” for the city if the legislation geared toward protecting those who identify with the LGBTQ community is not approved.
When each ordinance was passed Monday, there was applause by the audience.
“We have sent a serious message that does speak to children, adults and even visitors coming to the city for dinner,” Lamb said.
“They can do that without fear. It recognizes love thy neighbor. It’s not as a slogan, but a reality.”
He said people can dismiss those “antiquated” ideas of discrimination.
“They can set aside fears and fully embrace humanity,” Lamb said.
The nondiscrimination ordinances were first proposed by Medina Diversity Project co-chair Pam Miller more than seven months ago.
The city’s law department, led by Law Director Greg Huber and counsel Todd Hunt, of Walter Haverfield LLP, of Cleveland, along with Council President John Coyne helped craft the ordinances.
“This is how government is supposed to work,” Lamb said. “I’m thankful for everyone who participated. These ordinances are a product of a lot of folks’ input.
“This levels the playing field for everyone. That was the fundamental goal.”
Ordinance 541.08 amended the codified ordinance of the city to prohibit intimidation on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.
Ordinance 717 prohibits discriminatory conduct on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Until these ordinances are approved, it remains legal to evict people from their homes or fire them from their jobs simply because they want to.
House Bill 160, known as the Ohio Fairness Act, has been introduced but not passed.
It would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
“Nearby communities already have these ordinances in place to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community and it is not hard to imagine them choosing to live and work elsewhere if we choose to ignore their needs,” Ward 3 Councilman Eric Heffinger said.
“The goal of this ordinance to help prevent discrimination. Its purpose is to create an equal opportunity for all. There are no special privileges here; it is only giving the LGBTQ community the same rights as any other citizen, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of those things are hard to achieve if you are not free to live your life without fear of losing your home or employment.”
In September, Cuyahoga County became the first county in Ohio to take the step to protect its LGBTQ residents from discrimination.
Cuyahoga County Council voted to establish countywide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. In addition, they created a Human Rights Commission to advance a culture of diversity and inclusion, and to respond to complaints of discrimination.
Heffinger said the committee took a step in the right direction Monday.
Miller, a former councilwoman, said the ordinances have the backing of Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, Huber and most of the administration.
“It looks very favorable,” she said. “It has so many supporters.”
Miller was the only speaker advocating for the LGBTQ community. At the last meeting in November, 14 different speakers told their stories.
“We decided to keep things short,” she said.
Huber said this area of the law needs to be addressed by the state and federal government.
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