Cuyahoga Council Considers LGBT Protections

Cuyahoga County office building
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Cuyahoga County Council gave a first reading of a proposal to protect residents from being discriminated against for their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The hearing Tuesday came on the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs Hodges ruling that recognized the marriage of two gay men from Ohio. 

Cuyahoga County would join a half dozen cities in the county that protect against discrimination in housing and employment.  Council heard from a long line of legal and business professionals in favor of the legislation.

The president of Fit Technologies in Cleveland, Michelle Tomallo, said Northeast Ohio needs talented workers and those people want to go where they are welcome. 

“We know this ordinance supports the goals of expanding our workforce, of increasing our competitiveness, and attracting and retaining employees and employers.” 

Retired Cleveland Marshall Law Professor Susan Becker, who was an expert witness in the landmark Obergefell case of three years ago told council that she has long represented gay clients who had few rights. 

“All my clients wanted is to be treated fairly at work, to be secure in their homes, and to be able to go to a play, or shop for groceries or get their care fixed without being worried about being harassed or endangered while they’re doing this.”

Professor Emerita Susan J. Becker, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University (County video)

But several supporters argued the ordinance is too weak.  Elizabeth Bonham an attorney with the ACLU of Ohio said it was too hard on victims

“So for this ordinance to provide meaningful protection we urge council to pass it,” Bonham told council, “but to include in it a longer statute of limitations, a right to private counsel, and damages and injunctive relief including attorney’s fees and costs available.”

The ordinance would establish a Commission on Human Rights made up of 3 attorneys that would investigate complaints.

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