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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
June 16, 2006

Mayor kicks off Cleveland Pride

Jackson begins week with a City Hall ceremony

Cleveland--�We can�t build bridges and make Cleveland great again until we get rid of the differences between us,� said Mayor Frank Jackson, kicking off a week of LGBT Pride-related activities in the city.

Jackson and members of Cleveland City Council held an event in the City Hall Rotunda on June 12 to present proclamations and make official statements in support of the Pride events and the LGBT community.

Above it all, the LGBT rainbow flag flew atop City Hall on Jackson�s order, where it will remain for a week--the longest it has flown there.

Jackson took office in January. His predecessor, Jane Campbell, held a similar event in the City Hall Rotunda in 2002, her first year in the office.

Jackson�s proclamation recognizes Cleveland Pride for �education and outreach in the Greater Cleveland area that celebrates gay, lesbian, bi, and trans culture and to build bridges of understanding within our community and among all Clevelanders.� It also remembers the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York�s Greenwich Village, which are credited with beginning the LGBT civil rights movement, and �extend[s] a warm welcome to everyone attending this event.�

Known as a man of few words, this event marked Jackson�s first outreach to the LGBT community as mayor. After the ceremony, Jackson said he wants his administration to work on ways for people in the community to get past artificial barriers that keep them divided.

Jackson is also the first Cleveland mayor to have an openly gay member of council to work with. Joe Santiago, representing Ward 14, was elected the same day Jackson was.

Santiago and Ward 13 council member Joe Cimperman sponsored a proclamation co-sponsored by the remaining 19 members declaring June to be LGBT Pride Month in Cleveland.

�In an effort to further build and strengthen our community,� the proclamation continues, �we must move beyond merely �tolerating� the LGBT community as �strangers among friends,� as noted by [gay] civil rights leader David Mixner, but instead value them as our colleagues and neighbors, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends and partners.�

�The [Pride] theme this year is �Calling All Heroes,�� Santiago began. �In my eyes we are all heroes. We are here today to call all Clevelanders to be heroes, to support not only the gay community, but to support equality for all.�

�That�s what its all about,� said Santiago. �There is no �gay agenda.� It�s about equality for all Americans to be treated with dignity and respect so that we can all live proudly.�

�The colors of our lives are grey, dark and bright,� said Santiago. �Grey when we hear of House bills being introduced that would bar lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from adopting or fostering children that deserve a loving, safe home to live in. Dark when we hear of one of our own being fired, beaten up or even killed because of his or her sexuality. And bright when our voices are heard and people finally realize that we too, are an equal part of this country, and only wish to contribute to making it all that it can be.�

�Today and every day, I see all colors of the rainbow because I choose to live my life proudly and openly to ensure that the dream of equality for all will soon become a reality� he concluded.

Council president Martin Sweeney praised Santiago. �I don�t care if he�s gay or straight. He�s just good.�

�We want to treat everyone equally,� Sweeney continued, �with fairness and openness.�

Akeem Rollins, a high school student and winner of the Cleveland LGBT Center�s Rainbow Idol contest, rendered an a capella interpretation of �Still I Rise.�

The event highlighted Great Lakes Science Center director Linda Abraham-Silver for her work making her organization more LGBT affirming.

Upon her arrival in Cleveland, Silver enacted an LGBT inclusive non-discrimination policy at the museum that is.

Silver said as a California native, she had taken such protection for granted and didn�t realize that in Ohio people could be fired for being LGBT.

�We have been successful with individual employers,� said Silver, �Now it is up to large foundations and corporations to take the next step, and we have to encourage them to do so.�

Jackson said afterward that it was the first LGBT outreach of his administration, but not the last.

He said that when council sends him a domestic partner ordinance, �I will not veto it.�

Jackson, Sweeney, Cimperman and Santiago were joined in the rotunda by council clerk Emily Lipovan and council members Jay Westbrook, Kevin Kelley, Dona Brady, Nina Turner, Brian Cummins and Matt Zone.

Interim public health director Matthew Carroll also attended with AIDS Services director Bill Tiedemann, who is gay.

Other elected officials joining the celebration were Ohio House members Mike Skindell and Mike Foley, and lesbian Lakewood council member Nickie Antonio.

Santiago and Cummins also serve on the city�s Community Relations Board, which oversees enforcement of non- discrimination laws. They were joined by board members Rev. Jesse Harris, Gia Hoa Ryan, Peter Whitt and Ted Wammes, who was the first openly gay appointment to a Cleveland city board in 2003.


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