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June 20, 2008

Cleveland Heights also urges state to pass equality law

Cleveland Heights--Amid a flurry of Pride proclamations issued by cities and counties across the state, openly gay Cleveland Heights councilor Mark Tumeo decided to kill two birds with one stone at the June 16 city council meeting.

In addition to submitting a resolution declaring June as LGBT Pride Month, Tumeo also proposed one supporting the Equal Housing and Employment Act, which would bar discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity in Ohio.

State Sen. Dale Miller, a Cleveland Democrat, introduced the bill in March and it was ushered into the state House with the bipartisan support of State Reps. Dan Stewart, a Democrat of Columbus, and Jon Peterson, a Delaware County Republican.

“Whereas the most fundamental and honored principles of our national heritage affirm that all persons have certain rights that cannot be assigned, taken away or compromised; and whereas these inalienable rights include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and whereas life and liberty cannot be enjoyed, nor happiness pursued, if a person is identified, persecuted or discriminated against of the basis of his or her inherent nature . . . This Council hereby endorses House Bill 502 and Senate Bill 305 . . .” the resolution reads.

It and the companion piece declaring June as LGBT Pride Month both passed unanimously. The only comment from another council member came from Mayor Edward Kelley, noting Peterson’s role.

"It's about time a Republican in Columbus steps up to the plate and does something positive," he said.

Twenty states have laws similar to the proposed Ohio one, as do fifteen Ohio cities.

Franklin and Lucas counties have also passed resolutions supporting EHEA, as has the city of Toledo, which also passed its resolution unanimously.

The same evening that Cleveland Heights passed its resolutions, another inner-ring Cleveland suburb followed suit in honoring Pride month.

Lakewood Councilor Nickie Antonio, the first openly lesbian elected official in Cuyahoga County, introduced a Pride Month resolution at the City Council meeting.

Such resolutions have been contentious in the past, with measures to fly the rainbow flag in front of City Hall meeting with stiff opposition, and grizzled veterans recalling tales of beating gay men while on leave.

This year, however, the resolution honoring Pride Month passed unanimously.

As for the city of Cleveland itself, approval has been given for a Pride proclamation bearing Mayor Frank Jackson’s signature again this year, and one of the few remaining questions is who will present it.

Jackson ran into trouble as a novice councilor in the early 1990s for suggesting that people with HIV should be quarantined, a position he has since explained as something he brought up to spur discussion.

While that explanation never quite convinced AIDS and LGBT activists, Jackson has maintained a strong presence at many community activities, and retained many highly-regarded health department staff appointed by his predecessor, Jane Campbell.


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