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December 4, 2009
Summit passes county worker anti-bias measure
Akron--Ohio’s fifth most populous county, and for now its only charter county, passed an ordinance November 30 forbidding discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity in county employment and county vendors.
The 11-member Summit County council passed the ordinance 10 to 1 on a night where the cities of Cleveland and Akron also improved their non-discrimination measures.
The Summit law applies only to county workers, not private employees in the county. It also applies to employees of companies doing business with the county, regardless of where they are located.
Summit County has protected county employees on the basis of sexual orientation since 2001.
That ordinance came about after council member Pete Crossland attended a candidate forum sponsored by Stonewall Akron at the University of Akron.
Crossland, who is still a member of council, was also one of the sponsors of the new measure.
Joining Crossland as sponsors are County Executive Russ Pry, Council President Nick Kostandaras, and members Tim Crawford, Frank Comundale, Jerry Feeman, Jon Poda, Paula Prentice, Ilene Shapiro, John Schmidt, and Cazzell Smith.
Only council member Gloria Rodgers dissented.
Rodgers is a Republican representing the conservative areas of Hudson, Stow, Silver Lake and part of Cuyahoga Falls. All other members are Democrats.
The new ordinance is brief, and simply adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to every section of the county code that deals with equal opportunity and protecting classes from discrimination.
The ordinance defines sexual orientation as “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, by orientation or practice.”
Gender identity is defined as “the gender a person associates with him or herself.”
There is no religious exemption in the ordinance, which, according to press reports, was Rodgers’ main objection.
Summit joins Franklin, Lucas, Montgomery, and Hamilton counties in protecting its own employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Cuyahoga protects its workers from sexual orientation bias.