Screenshot of Cuyahoga County LiveStream | Twitter
EDIT:: This article now contains the full audio of the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, if you'd like to rage-listen for yourself, including the public comments of opposer Tony George, the Cleveland restauranteur who "owns 37 restaurants and bars." See at the bottom of the page.
Current protections for Cuyahoga County include race, color, religion, military status, national origin, disability, age, ancestry and gender. The ordinance would add sexual orientation and gender identification to that list.
Six cities in Cuyahoga County already have these protections, covering 43 percent of county residents; the ordinance would move that number to 100.
Equality Ohio learned ahead of last night's meeting that anti-LGBTQ+ extremists were planning on attending the meeting to bombard council members with opposition to the ordinance, despite the fact a vote on this ordinance was not even scheduled.
At one point, a community member said that offering these protections to LGBTQ+ members would be the same as "protecting murderers." (Cleveland, incidentally, is responsible for 1/7th of the transgender murders nationwide in 2018 alone and the trans community is targeted for violence at an epidemic rate.)
Another claimed that elevating people's identity to a place of "rights" is a "violation of others' rights." Many misunderstood the ordinance as some sort of bathroom bill.
As expected, there were plenty that saw this legislation as an attack on religious freedoms, and many saw passing legislation that will have legitimately zero personal impact on them as an attack on their rights.
A doctor testified in the opposition, and pretty much invalidated his hippocratic oath in the process: He said there were benefits to discrimination. However, studies have proven that discriminating against LGBTQ+ people in the medical field leads to poor health outcomes and higher costs.
The final speaker referred to the ordinance as an "alternative lifestyle ordinance," again perpetuating an unfounded narrative that LGBTQ+ people are actively choosing to live this way, compared transgender women to pedophiles and then complained that there weren't as many people at a previous meeting about "killing babies," confusing just about everyone there.
Viewers and observers expressed their shock and anger, including Ward 3 Cleveland City Councilman, Kerry McCormack, and encouraged others to contact the County Council to combat the bigotry.
Fortunately, there was some relief from people who weren't living on the wrong side of history.
A couple tearfully shared their story about their transgender daughter who experienced discrimination in her elementary school and was told by an administrator, "I'm sorry, but there are no laws to protect you."
A gay activist and teacher said that after attending meetings about similar ordinances across the county, East Cleveland is the only city where he's not witnessed opposition of LGBTQ+ protection rights, noting that communities of color are consistently moving us forward.
Kevin Schmotzer, Mayor Frank Jackson's newly appointed LGBTQ+ liaison for the City of Cleveland, spoke about North Carolina losing $3.76 billion after passing their wildly-offensive bathroom bill, as companies like PayPal chose to cancel plans on headquartering and the NCAA withdrew the state from consideration as a host site for championships. He feared the same will happen in Cuyahoga County if we continue allowing open discrimination.
Other residents in attendance who support the legislation, including a representative from Equality Ohio, spent most of their time correcting false and downright dangerous lies perpetuated by many of the opposition.
County Executive Armond Budish, along with councilmembers Houser, Brady, Miller, and Simon, sponsored the Human Rights ordinance. If approved, it would establish a commission that could levy fines for discrimination of LGBTQ individuals.
"Ohio law already makes it illegal to refuse a person a job or housing based on their race, age, religion, gender, disability — but Ohio law says it's OK to discriminate against people who are LGBTQ," Budish said in July when it was introduced. "That is wrong."
The ACLU supports the ordinance but says it doesn't go far enough.
"The ACLU must underscore the importance for Cuyahoga County Council to create a substantive Human Rights Commission, one that can do more than just levy fines to fund diversity education efforts, but also provide real remedies, especially recovery for the damages that victims of discrimination face. Any ordinance that creates the illusion of protection, while good intentioned, is problematic and inherently lacking in true justice, because it gives the impression that people who face discrimination have a real opportunity to have that wrong righted, when, in fact, this commission could potentially provide mere tokenisms, not real and meaningful redress," it said in July.
The charter amendment that would add identity and gender expression to the list of protected classes for county employees, if approved, would appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Additionally, Rep. Nickie Antonio is the primary sponsor of House Bill 160, proposed legislation that would offer protections for LGBTQ+ people across the entire state of Ohio that would override any potential lack of protections if Cuyahoga County's protection ordinance does not pass.