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December 17, 2010

Lakewood to add gender identity to equality laws

Lakewood--City council stands poised to expand protections for transgender residents with the passage of three new ordinances.

The final votes are expected on December 20, according to councilor Nickie Antonio and council president Kevin Butler.

The move comes just months after Antonio, who leaves for the Ohio House of Representatives next month, worked with the human resources director of Lakewood to add sexual orientation and gender identity to personnel policies across the board, protecting city employees from anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination.

“Further, the language that was incorporated into the updated policies and procedures has also been expanded and incorporated into some of the union contracts that have been negotiated this year, so those protections will now be in those contracts going forward,” Antonio said, “which I really believe speaks to the city of Lakewood’s commitment to respecting diversity in hiring and employment.”

The three proposed ordinances, which were introduced by Butler when Antonio was at a new-legislator orientation in Columbus last month, would amend section 501.01 of the city code, which provides  definitions, to add ones for sexual orientation and gender identity; section 537.18, to add gender identity or expression to the ethnic intimidation ordinance which already contains sexual orientation, and section 516, the fair housing ordinance, to bar discrimination in housing and  financing on the basis of gender identity and expression. The fair housing code also currently includes sexual orientation.

Antonio was elected to the 13th District Ohio House seat that State Rep. Mike Skindell is vacating due to term limits. Skindell was also a Lakewood City Council member, and has won election to the Ohio Senate for the 23rd district. Skindell is a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, and was one of the main proponents of the addition of sexual orientation to the Lakewood city codes.

With the measures’ passage, Lakewood would become Ohio’s eleventh city to include transgender people in its equal rights ordinances. The others are Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, Akron, Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Bowling Green and Oxford. Six more cities have sexual orientation equality measures: Canton, Oberlin, Yellow Springs, Athens, North Olmsted and East Cleveland.

No federal or Ohio law protects either group, unlike in 21 other states and the District of Columbia. A measure to do so passed the Ohio House last year but never saw a Senate vote; a similar federal bill has met a similar fate.

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