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December 5, 2008

Columbus prepares to add gender identity protections

Columbus--Ohio's capital city is considering changes to its human rights ordinances to add protection based on gender identity or expression.

The proposed ordinance will be introduced December 8 by councilor Priscilla Tyson, who chairs the administration committee.

Tyson was appointed to city council in 2007 to fill the seat vacated by openly lesbian Mary Jo Hudson, who resigned to become the Ohio insurance commissioner.

The ordinance updates sections of city code covering employment non-discrimination, fair housing, public accommodations and ethnic intimidation.

The sections are similar, but not uniform in listing who is covered, though commonly, race, religion and sexual orientation are included. Sexual orientation was added to the housing and accommodation code in 1984, and to the others in 1992.

The updates add gender identity or expression and, if the sections don’t already have them, sex, ancestry, age, disability and familial status.

According to openly lesbian Columbus Community Relations Commissioner Chris Cozad, the commission recommended the changes.

Tyson will chair a December 11 public hearing on the ordinance. If approved, it will go to the full council on December 15, where it is expected to pass.

No Ohio or federal law prohibits discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity, although a bill to add them is currently in the state legislature. Four other Ohio cities include both in their non-discrimination ordinances: Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton and Oxford.

Besides Columbus, ten more cover sexual orientation. These include Cleveland, which is also preparing to add gender identity, and its suburbs of Lakewood, North Olmsted, East Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights. The others are Canton and the college towns of Oberlin, Athens and Yellow Springs.


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