By Bob Vitale
Springfield could become the 20th Ohio municipality to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity when city commissioners take up a proposed ordinance on Tuesday.
Chances for passage appear good. Mayor Warren Copeland supported a similar measure that went before the five-member City Commission in 2012, and two commissioners who were elected last fall have said they favor a local nondiscrimination law.
The proposed ordinance would bar discrimination in employment, housing and local businesses in the city of 59,000 people 25 miles northeast of Dayton. It also would bar discrimination by anyone who does business with city government.
Springfield already bans discrimination based on race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, handicap, age and sex.
Bradley Minerd, vice president of the local civil rights group Equality Springfield, said the measure is a timely counteraction to the anti-LGBTQ fringe that he sees as emboldened since the election of Donald Trump as president.
Minerd, who is gay, left his home on Jan. 22 to find the word “faggot” scrawled across his front door in red lipstick.
Although he said the vandalism doesn’t deter him from speaking out, “I am concerned that people are taking it into their own hands to come and do damage to property.”
The proposed ordinance also would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a local hate-crimes law.
The ordinance that will go before city commissioners mentions only sexual orientation in its title, but it defines sexual orientation to include “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity.”
It exempts religious schools and churches engaged in religious activity.
City commissioners rejected a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2012 by a vote of 3-2. One of the three opponents and one of the two supporters have since left office.
Newly elected Commissioner David Estrop, the retired superintendent of Springfield schools, said at a candidates’ forum in September that city government “should not discriminate against any group,” according to a report in the Springfield News-Sun.
“We should welcome people to our community to make it stronger,” he said.
The paper quoted newly elected Commissioner Rob Rue as saying he had no problem expanding local nondiscrimination laws.
“I don’t believe that we should discriminate against people who choose a different lifestyle,” he said with a choice of phrase that makes some cringe.
If commissioners approve the proposed ordinance, Springfield will become the fifth city in Southwest Ohio—after Cincinnati, Dayton, Oxford and Yellow Springs—to ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Other Ohio cities with inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances are Akron, Athens, Bexley, Bowling Green, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Coshocton, East Cleveland, Lakewood, Kent, Newark, Olmsted Falls, Toledo and Youngstown.
A hearing on a bill that would ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination statewide will have a hearing at the Statehouse in Columbus on Wednesday.