Legislation was introduced on Tuesday that would establish a commission to hear discrimination complaints, including complaints related to sexual orientation and gender identification, in Cuyahoga County.
Introduced by County Executive Armond Budish, County Council President Dan Brady and councilmembers Dale Miller and Michael Houser, the legislation would establish a three-person Cuyahoga County Commission on Human Rights.
Commission members would be attorneys and would have the authority to levy fines if they determine discrimination has occurred, and the money collected from those fines would be used to fund efforts to provide education and awareness regarding the problems and effects of prejudice, intolerance, bigotry and discrimination.
"This is an important step forward in our quest to make sure that all residents have equal access to justice and that they feel safe and supported," Budish said in a news release
. "You can say that you support equal rights for all, but until there is legislation that supports this, it isn't a reality."
Current protections for Cuyahoga County include race, color, religion, military status, national origin, disability, age, ancestry and gender. The legislation would add sexual orientation and gender identification to that list.
This isn't Budish's first time attempting to bring this sort of legislation to fruition. The Ohio House successfully passed
(please excuse Cleveland.com's problematic use of "transgendered" in that link
) similar legislation when Budish was speaker in 2009, but the measure didn’t make it past the Senate.
“When somebody seeks to rent an apartment or get a job, they should be treated fairly – like everybody else — and not be allowed to be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation,” Budish said
There are currently no statewide protections in Ohio for sexual orientation outside of state employment, and only 30 Ohio cities and counties have anti-discrimination ordinances prohibiting employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
This new legislation is specific to Cuyahoga County. State Rep. Nickie Antonio introduced House Bill 160
(The Ohio Fairness Act), which would offer protections statewide for members of the LGBTQ community. House Bill 160 is currently undergoing committee review.