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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 16, 2005

Seven mayoral candidates speak on LGBT issues

Stonewall Democrats won�t endorse until after the primary

Cleveland--After holding a large candidate forum and with questionnaires returned by most of the candidates, the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats made no endorsement among the eight people running for mayor.

�The group was almost evenly split between people who supported Mayor Campbell�s re-election and others who wanted to wait until after the primary to endorse in the race,� said the group�s president, Patrick Shepherd. �I encourage all LGBT people and our allies to get involved in the mayoral campaign of their choice.�

The decision came after the Stonewall Democrats and ten other sponsors held an LGBT mayoral candidate forum September 8 at Trinity Cathedral.

All the candidates participated in the forum except former police chief James Draper, who has not reached out to LGBT voters during his campaign.

The rest, Anthony Brown, incumbent Mayor Jane Campbell, Council President Frank Jackson, former Euclid mayor David Lynch, Michael Nelson, former council member Bill Patmon and former municipal court judge Robert Triozzi, answered questions asked by moderator David Abbott, who directs the Gund Foundation.

After opening remarks, mostly touching on how diversity makes the city stronger, the audience of 160 heard the candidates on more specific issues.

Some of the candidates� answers were essentially the same. All agreed that the Cleveland City Schools, which the mayor controls, should adopt an anti-bullying policy that specifies protecting kids on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

All said they would continue to fly the rainbow flag over City Hall during Cleveland Pride, a tradition started by Campbell in 2002.

Jackson, however, told those assembled that the flag isn�t enough.

�Don�t get caught in the trappings of symbolism,� said Jackson. �There�s other work to be done. Don�t be lulled by symbolic acts.�

Nelson twice took subtle shots at Campbell. Once was during the flag question, when he said he knew that LGBT people weren�t being protected in the city jails, and he vowed to address it.

The second time was when the candidates were asked if they supported domestic partner benefits for city employees.

City worker partner benefits

Campbell talked about such benefits during the 2001 campaign and the issue heated up again after Cleveland Heights passed them in 2002. The matter has never moved through council, despite the support of many council members.

Jackson, who heads council, said he supports the benefits, but, �I�m only one of 21 people and 21 divergent views� on the city council, suggesting that he didn�t think there were enough votes to pass it.

Campbell said, �I support it, but we didn�t do it in �03 because the city had a $63 million deficit, and employees were being asked to take concessions.�

�If I introduced this issue,� said Campbell, �people would blame their health care issues on gays and lesbians. It would lose, and it would make it harder to go forward on it later.�

Campbell said she sees the matter coming up again in 2007 as part of contract negotiations, and under a healthier budget situation.

To which Nelson replied, �You shouldn�t have to wait. This issue shouldn�t take a back seat,� adding that the LGBT community should stop being polite about demanding domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Patmon was not directly asked, but mentioned that he sponsored the current Cleveland employment non- discrimination ordinance in 1996 while a member of council.

That measure is among the toughest job bias ordinances in the nation and the only one making job discrimination a criminal offense, not a civil one. It includes protection based on sexual orientation that was added to city anti-discrimination ordinances in 1994.

Candidate Lynch, the only Republican in the field, did not mention the 1997 opinion he wrote as law director of Westlake that says the city�s existing fair housing measure includes sexual orientation protection.

Did you vote for Issue 1?

The evening�s first question was very simple: Did you vote for Issue 1 last year, the Ohio marriage ban amendment? Brown was the only one who said he supports and voted for the measure, which passed.

All the others opposed it. Campbell campaigned against it and regularly states her support of full marriage equality. Jackson led council to pass a resolution denouncing it. Nelson said the Democratic Party of Ohio should have done more to challenge the ballot wording in an attempt to keep it off the ballot.

Another question asked how the candidates would, as mayor, challenge church leaders in the community who say gays and lesbians are sinners and shouldn�t have rights.

Patmon talked about his dealings with that when he sponsored the 1996 employment ordinance.

Jackson, Lynch, and Triozzi spoke of respect for the pastors� views, but making it clear that they don�t belong in the shaping of public policy.

�I stand for all of Cleveland,� said Triozzi. �If a church has an issue with me, then so be it.�

The candidates were also asked about the concepts introduced by professor Richard Florida in his book The Rise of the Creative Class, where he suggests that gay-affirming cities are doing better economically.

All agreed with Florida�s analysis.

Campbell joked that the best thing Cleveland could do is secede from the rest of Ohio, which drew audience applause.

A related question from the audience asked why, given the marriage ban amendment and the generally hostile state, a gay Cleveland State University student should stay in town after graduating.

Patmon, Campbell, Jackson, and Lynch encouraged the student to stay in Cleveland and fight for what is right.

�The great thing about Cleveland,� said Campbell, �is that you can make a difference by being active. There are opportunities available. This is a place to create a future.�

Patmon compared the fight to the 1990s when Cleveland began to reverse its post-industrial decline, saying, �We can have a government in the city that is committed to equality.�

�Right only happens by you when you make it happen to you,� said Jackson. �Make what you believe happen� in Cleveland.

�Stay and help educate others,� said Lynch. �We teach other Ohioans by succeeding in Cleveland.�

The top two vote-getters in the October 4 primary will face each other November 8.

Other sponsors of the forum with the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats were the ACLU of Ohio, the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, BlackOut Unlimited, Cleveland Pride, the Gay People�s Chronicle, Heights Families for Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the Cleveland Lesbian Gay Center, Log Cabin Republicans, People of All Colors Together and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

 

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