MEDINA — At-Large Councilman Bill Lamb said he expects the city soon will pass legislation to protect the LGBTQ community against discrimination.
Members of OutSupport, which supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer community, appealed to City Council’s Finance Committee on June 25 to pass non-discrimination legislation.
Pam Miller, co-chair of the Medina Diversity Program, said 20 communities in the state have passed non-discrimination legislation including Akron, Cleveland, South Euclid, Kent, Olmsted Falls and Lakewood.
Lamb, who marched with OutSupport in Medina’s Fourth of July parade Wednesday, said he’s confident the Special Legislation Committee he chairs will support non-discrimination legislation.
“On this issue, it’s deserved protection,” he said. “(If the legislation is passed), it sends a signal that we are accepting of diversity. We need to show and demonstrate that kind of acceptance.
“I think it will be smooth sailing to get it through. We have broad community support. It benefits a lot of folks.”
Miller also is confident the legislation will pass.
“I thought it appeared to be well received by the council people,” she said Thursday. “Our state doesn’t protect people from that discrimination. Twenty-eight states don’t have non-discrimination laws. Around the state, cities are passing legislation on their own. We’re working from the bottom up.
“It not right they have to hide their identity in fear of being fired. By law, landlords can’t deny housing because of someone’s color. But there is no recourse if you’re gay or transgender. Diversity strengthens our community. It’s the right thing to do.”
Lamb said the Special Legislation Committee will meet in August after council’s summer break, and he will meet with members of OutSupport beforehand.
If the Special Legislation Committee agrees to draft legislation, it will move finance, Lamb said, and eventually come before council.
Ward 2 Councilman Dennie Simpson said at last week’s finance meeting that non-discrimination legislation is “long overdue.”
Medina’s Sandy Varndell, who founded OutSupport in 2013, said she has a transgender son and bisexual daughter.
“Both are out and proud and walked in the parade (Wednesday),” she said.
Varndell said she is thrilled that Lamb and Ward 1 Councilwoman Laura Parnell-Cavey both walked in the parade in support of OutSupport.
“It was great because people cheered,” Lamb said. “What a wonderful thing. It was so much fun.”
Varndell said she’s trying to drum up support for the LGBTQ community.
“There are a number of states that legally protect the LGBTQ community in employment, housing and other situations,” she said Thursday. “Ohio is not one of them.”
House Bill 160, known as the Ohio Fairness Act, has been introduced but not passed by the Ohio House. It would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
Ohio remains one of 28 states without clear, inclusive, non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.
“We are very hopeful all the citizens of Medina, no matter how they view themselves, are protected,” Varndell said.
She said people legally can be kicked out of their apartment or even not be served in a restaurant if they are gay or transgender.
“It’s just unfair because of one’s sexual orientation,” Varndell said. “We want all children to feel safe and protected.”
She said until HB 160 passes, the only way to keep moving forward is to do it “city by city.”
Local attorney Amy Demlow, who has a transgender son, previously told the finance committee “this is a non-partisan issue.”
She said many in the LGBTQ workforce don’t consider Medina because it has yet to pass any non-discrimination legislation.
“I want my children to come back to (work and live in) Medina some day,” Demlow said.
Ernst & Young employee Joe Matuszewski said the town he chose to live in can legally discriminate.
“My husband and I could be turned away in stores because we are gay,” he said at the finance meeting.
He urged the city to adopt these “protections.”