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says he will help
Akron--Mayor Don Plusquellic has pledged to help get an LGBT equal rights ordinance passed in Akron.
“I will do whatever I can to work with [City Council President] Marco Sommerville to get that ordinance passed,” Plusquellic told the Stonewall Democrats of Summit County on August 21.
Plusquellic has been Akron’s mayor since 1987. He was referring to a failed 1999 attempt by LGBT activists, many of whom were in the room, to pass a human rights ordinance that would bar discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The mayor revealed where the opposition to the 1999 measure came from. Three members of the 13-member council were against it for religious reasons: at-large members John Conti and Michael Williams, and Ward 9 councilor Mike Freeman. Plusquellic expressed regret that he did not take a leadership role in passing it then.
“Have I been the biggest [LGBT] advocate?” Plusquellic asked rhetorically, then answered, “No, but there are things we have done that have been right, and have been in the right places.”
Plusquellic, a Democrat, is running for re-election in November. He faces former council member Joe Finley, also a Democrat, who is running as an independent. Finley addressed the LGBT Democrats a month earlier.
In 2004, and while he was president of the United States Conference of Mayors, Plusquellic became one of the first elected officials to publicly oppose Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions.
He spoke for an hour and a half to the 23 people at the gathering, discussing his administration’s early response to AIDS, which was widely praised at the time, taking questions, and talking about his early experiences with gay people.
“I had friends in college who were gay,” Plusquellic said. “And as a Teamster delivering beer to gay bars, I saw how people had to live, sneaking around. Society has changed since then, though maybe it hasn’t changed enough.”
“I’m for letting people live their lives,” Plusquellic said. “We want talented people, and we don’t want to limit our pot of people in any other way.”
Plusquellic also addressed questions on economic development and “brain drain,” which the questioner attributed partly to Ohio’s conservative politics. He asked the LGBT Democrats about their employers, and discussed what other cities are doing.
Thirteen other Ohio cities have ordinances barring sexual orientation discrimination and two, Toledo and Cincinnati, include transgender people.
Plusquellic addressed the possibility of appointing a visible LGBT person in the next administration.
Using his 80-year-old mother as an example of someone who is a good person but who will never understand LGBT people, Plusquellic said in some cases it is better not to make demands, because of the resistance it can cause.
“Some times you need to look for ways to get around the stone wall rather than bashing into it,” Plusquellic said.