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March 7, 2008

Oxford is the 15th Ohio
town to pass an LGBT rights measure

Oxford, Ohio--The city that is home to Miami University is now the 15th in Ohio to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the fourth to cover gender identity.

City council voted unanimously on March 4 to expand the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, less than two months after the idea was first floated in a meeting between Miami students, staff, community members and city manager Douglas R. Elliott, Jr.

Leslie Morrow, a board member of Equality Ohio and coordinator of Miami’s Office of GLBT Services, noted the involvement of the school in passing the ordinance.

“To be honest, students, staff and faculty have been coming to me since I’ve been in this position, talking about discrimination they’ve faced,” she said. “Last semester, there were a few acts that I thought were just over the top, and the students were fed up.”

She wanted to organize swiftly on the issue because, if left too long, the outrage fades and “you end up going back and giving them your business again.”

Morrow contacted university administrators, including the director of off-campus affairs, who organized the January meeting attended by Elliott.

“He was just appalled by some of the things that were going on,” Morrow noted.

“The next thing I know, here’s an e-mail saying, ‘Here’s the proposed change to the ordinance, what do you think?’ ” she recounted.

During the hashing-out process, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity were specifically added.

After Elliott put the ordinance forward, Mayor Prue Dana sponsored it in council.

“People on council were adding protections,” Morrow noted in amazement.

It sailed through its first reading, and on March 4 had its second reading and vote.

“I didn’t expect it to go at all the way it did, and honestly it was just a great discussion between members of council, members of the community and people at the university,” she said.

The measure covers employment, housing and public accommodations. It takes effect 30 days from passage, on April 3.

“I think Oxford is going to send a message to people in the city and on campus that bigotry will not be accepted,” Morrow said. “I really hope that we can continue to create change and be an example to other cities and municipalities in Ohio and beyond.”

“I congratulate the Oxford City Council for unanimously standing up for fairness and equality. If only every citizen of Ohio had similar protection from discrimination,” Kim Welter, Equality Ohio’s program manager of outreach and education, said.

The final approval came a week after the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights revised its employment policies to bar discrimination by sexual orientation, gender identity or ancestry for city workers. The city already includes sexual orientation in its fair housing code for residents.

Although Ohio has no state law protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination, the 15 cities that now include sexual orientation in their ordinances cover about a fifth of the state’s population.

Along with Oxford’s, the measures in Toledo, Dayton and Cincinnati also cover transgender people. The other cities are Cleveland, Columbus and Canton; the college towns of Oberlin, Athens and Yellow Springs; and four other Cleveland suburbs: Lakewood, North Olmsted, East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights.



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