Ohio

Cleveland city council mulls changing gender identity ordinance

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CLEVELAND — Jacob Nash remembers being forced to use the women’s room at City Hall in 2009 when he was part of a coalition of LGBT groups working with City Council on passing anti-discrimination laws.

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio

The resulting ordinance outlawed housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but a last-minute provision was added that said businesses could exclude transgender people from using the restroom or locker room they feel is appropriate.

The provision has remained a sore point for those who believe that part of the law is insensitive and discriminatory, and now a City Council committee is scheduled Wednesday to consider legislation that changes it.

Nash, 49, who is transgender, has considered himself male his entire life, says he has a beard and a mustache and thinks it would be inappropriate for him to use a women’s bathroom.

“It would make them uncomfortable and make me comfortable,” Nash said.

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The proposed change would exempt only businesses with less than four employees, religious institutions and private social or fraternal organizations.

Ordinance sponsors Councilmen Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone did not return messages requesting comment on Friday.

Alana Jochum of Equality Ohio, a statewide advocacy and education group for LGBT people, said eight cities in Ohio and more than 150 in the U.S. have laws on the book that outlaw discrimination based on gender identity. She said changing the Cleveland ordinance is long overdue.

“People want to treat people fairly and do the right thing, which is why we’re removing these provisions now,” Jochum said.

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