Prizm News / July 24, 2019 / By Ken Schneck
Shaker Heights becomes the 26th Ohio locality to pass LGBTQ+ protections
With a sweeping set of updates and actions over the past month, Shaker Heights this week became the 26th Ohio locality to pass comprehensive and inclusive protections for the LGBTQ+ community. On Monday, the City Council unanimously voted to amend language in the “Fair Housing” section of Shaker’s Business Regulation Code of the Codified Ordinances to include protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Coupled with the Council’s also-unanimous vote on June 24to create nondiscrimination in employment and public accommodations, the Cleveland-suburb now sports the full panoply of protections for LGBTQ+ residents and visitors alike. The opposition was nil.
“We worked with Equality Ohio to prepare for any issues that might come up,” says William M. Ondrey Gruber, the Director of Law for Shaker Heights. “We didn’t need to do any convincing. At every meeting and public reading, everyone spoke in favor of these changes.”
This week’s vote was the culmination of well over a decade of work. Back in 2006, City Councilperson Nancy Moore helmed efforts to update the housing code to offer protections based on sexual orientation.
“Nancy Moore has been the champion of moving Shaker forward on equality,” says Robert Rivera, a Board Member of Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, an organization that has worked closely with communities like Shaker Heights to educate, endorse, and elect pro-equality councils.
Monday’s vote to add these protections into language regarding housing will help to address a documented issue present in Ohio’s residential landscape.
“We receive complaints of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing from area residents,” says Kris Keniray, the Associate Director of the Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research. “It really makes a different in people’s lives to know that local laws prohibit such discrimination.”
With a lack of these protections statewide, it has been left up to individual cities to amend or create language to make sure these protections are codified into Ohio life.
“Shaker Heights and other Ohio cities must take this stem themselves,” says Gwen Stembridge, the Statewide Civic Engagement Director of Equality Ohio. “The Ohio legislature has failed to act on SB11, the Ohio Fairness Act.
For Shaker Heights, Monday’s vote is another strong message to surrounding communities that they are a place of inclusivity and support.
“All of these protections that were passed are not present in federal and state law,” says Gruber. “Ultimately, they are important to our citizens and they tell the outside world that Shaker is a welcoming community.”
To learn more about how you can help pass nondiscrimination language in your own community, visit the Equality Ohio website at http://www.equalityohio.org.