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January 1, 2010

 

Lima passes city worker protection ordinance

Lima--This northwest Ohio city became the tenth in the state to protect its employees from discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity on December 21. The vote was 8 to 0.

The measure protects only city workers, but it “lays the groundwork for future ordinances to be passed,” said its proponent, Lima resident Brett Shingledecker.

Located between Toledo and Dayton, Lima’s history includes oil field prominence in the early days of Standard Oil, ties to Ku Klux Klan activity in the 1920s, a reluctance to embrace the civil rights progress of the 1960s and conservative politics that continue today. City council elections are non-partisan.

Shingledecker said there was no opposition to the ordinance and passage was quick, following a brief statement by its sponsor Tom Tebben, who represents Ward 4.

Shingledecker, 47, came out in Lima in 1978 at age 15. He moved back from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help care for his grandparents. He was the co-founder of Chicago’s People Like Us LGBT bookstore in 1988.

Upon return to his hometown, Shingledecker was hired to direct the Artsbase Lima project, making him a community leader until he left the post last year to conduct educational travel programs.

Shingledecker said the city is conducting a review of its charter and working on ways to re-brand itself as a place where people want to live and work.

“Lima doesn’t do enough to embrace its minorities,” Shingledecker said, discussing the charter review commission’s study findings.

Shingledecker said the commission recommended that sexual orientation and gender identity be protected from discrimination, but that it be accomplished separate from the charter revision process, which requires approval of the electorate.

“The fear was that the whole charter could be shot down over this,” Shingledecker said, “but council could enact it as an ordinance by itself.”

Shingledecker said he knows most of the councilors, and spoke at a meeting in May, explaining to them that many Lima residents who work in the private sector are already protected.

Lima’s major employers, which include a Husky Energy oil refinery, Ford Motor Company and health care services, have policies protecting LGBT workers.

Shingledecker said his visible community profile gives him the opportunity to get community officials to put a face to LGBT issues that might otherwise be intangible to them.

“I carry some weight with them,” he added.

The ordinance, was passed as an emergency measure and signed by Mayor David Berger. It went into effect immediately.

In addition to Lima, the state of Ohio and Summit, Franklin, Lucas, Montgomery and Hamilton counties have measures protecting their employees from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Cuyahoga County and the city of Gahanna cover only sexual orientation.

Nine Ohio cities, including the six largest ones, have LGBT job bias measures that apply to all workers, public and private. Four more have similar ordinances for sexual orientation only.

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