Protestors seeking action on a trans-inclusive update to Cleveland's nondiscrimination ordinance rallied at Cleveland City Hall Monday, demanding the council or its committees take up a proposal that was introduced two years ago.
The proposed ordinance, 1446-13, would update the city's existing nondiscrimination policies regarding public accommodations, including restrooms, to bar business owners, employees, or agents from denying access to facilities based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and a host of other characteristics.
As currently written, Cleveland's ordinance bars business discrimination based on any "protected class," without enumerating what those are. The amendment, proposed in 2013 by Councilman Joe Cimperman, would clarify that such discrimination is unlawful if based upon a person's "race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, ethnic group, or Vietnam-era or disabled veteran status." Any business or individual found to deny an individual services or access based on those factors would be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor and could be fined at least $1,000, and "sentenced to not less than three months imprisonment."
"Every single struggle for human rights in the United States takes time, takes education and more than anything else, takes someone in your family who knows someone or someone themselves going through it," Cimperman told Cleveland's WEWS TV.
But a Cleveland trans man who spoke with the station said he's tired of waiting for the "right" moment to advance the proposal, noting that he has been denied access to the men's room in several businesses in the city.
"I want to be allowed to use the men's restroom without someone saying to me, 'Well, you weren't born a male so you can't use the men's room,'" Jacob Nash told WEWS.
"Be accountable. Tell these folks where you stand," Councilman Jeff Johnson said Monday, clearly frustrated by the lack of action, according to the local news station. "Bring it to a vote, workforce committee, finance committee, this council. 1446-13, two years!"
As with the recent voter repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, opponents of trans-inclusive protections in Cleveland have focused on the proposal's inclusion of gender identity to paint it as a "bathroom ordinance," a term defined as defamatory by media watchdog GLAAD. After the Cleveland legislation's only hearing to date, in November 2014, local media, including daily newspaper The Plain Dealer, mischaracterized the nondiscrimination ordinance as one that would "open all public restrooms and showers to both sexes."
The ordinance as proposed does no such thing — it simply prohibits Cleveland business owners from denying service to, or barring individuals from using the facilities that comport with their gender identity. It does not require construction of new facilities, nor does it mandate gender-neutral signage on sex-segregated spaces. Religious organizations and institutions would be exempt from the ordinance, as would "any private organization having a purely social or fraternal purpose" and any company that employs fewer than four people, not including immediate family members.
Watch the WEWS TV report on Monday's demonstration at the Cleveland City Hall below.