EDIT::This article now includes the 4:22:09 long video of the public forum. Enjoy!
For over four hours last night, more than 200 people poured into the council chambers of the Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters to speak on record either against, or in favor, of the county's proposed LGBTQ+ discrimination protection ordinance.
Current protections for Cuyahoga County include race, color, religion, military status, national origin, disability, age, ancestry and gender. The ordinance proposed would add sexual orientation and gender identification to that list.
Six cities in Cuyahoga County already have these protections, including Cleveland, covering 43 percent of county residents; the ordinance would move that number to 100.
The ordinance also creates a Cuyahoga County Commission on Human Rights, so if someone experiences discrimination, they can take the complaint to the commission who could award attorney fees, enforce civil penalties and order the discriminating party to stop.
Those in opposition presumably arrived early because they somehow managed to snag a chair while a majority of supporters were left standing along the walls and occupying the overflow rooms. Members in support of the ordinance, and countless members of the LGBTQ+ community were easily identifiable, all wearing rainbow ribbons provided by Equality Ohio.
The passing of this ordinance is going to be life-altering for the LGBTQ+ community. and will have absolutely zero impact on anyone else. To quote speaker Madison Woods, “What this vote means today – when it passes – is that I will finally have the rights that arguably, probably most of you have never had the misfortune of not having."
Fortunately, the ordinance passed with a vote of 8 to 3. District 1's Nan Baker, District 6's Jack Schron and District 5's Michael J. Gallagher, who has an openly gay son, were the three votes in opposition.
Baker, Schron and Gallagher all cited the "broad language" of the ordinance as their reasons for voting no (Schron was baffled there isn't a religious exemption), while many council members in support recognized that although imperfect, this ordinance was a step in the right direction, and amendments can be made in the future to truly make the ordinance as perfect as possible.
This was a historic vote, yes, and the benefits of adding the LGBTQ+ community as a protected class will have immeasurable benefits to Cuyahoga County. However, it absolutely must be acknowledged the strength, perseverance and resilience of the queer community, particularly the transgender community, that had to sit through four hours of disparaging and downright hateful comments, another parade of "ignorant idiots," if you will.
LGBTQ+ people are no strangers to being openly discriminated against with ignorant rhetoric, but being forced to sit in a room with fellow neighbors' false information and painfully incorrect beliefs touted as facts, without the ability to comment in retaliation, was extremely difficult.
Opposers of the ordinance compared transgender people to perverts and pedophiles, discounted the validity of their gender identity and many accused transwomen of being potential rapists in a dress, hoping to use the bathroom as a hunting ground. There were a lot of tears being held back, a lot of fists clenched in anxiety and an exhibition of strength from our transgender community that will be forever unmatched.
I live-tweeted the entire ordeal and gave unfiltered reactions to almost all of the speakers in real-time. Check it out if you want a far more snarky retelling of the meeting.
It’s standing room only at the @CuyahogaCouncil meeting to discuss the LGBTQ+ protection ordinance. If everyone speaks who has already signed up, public forum will take over 4 hours.
Transphobic people are straight-up obsessed with the bathroom. If we all took a shot every time some religious nut went up to talk about "the bathroom," we'd all have died of alcohol poisoning within an hour.
It's important to note, this ordinance is not a "bathroom bill," and even if it was, as Kevin Schmotzer, Mayor Frank Jackson's newly appointed LGBTQ+ liaison for the City of Cleveland came for a second week to report, North Carolina lost over $3.76 billion after passing their wildly-offensive bathroom bill.
At one point, an impassioned opposer began oozing the typical anti-trans "boogeyman in the bathroom," comments, when she personally addressed Council President, Dan Brady.
She began setting up an "imagine the women's bathroom..." story and starting naming his wife and children on a public forum to paint a picture of his family being potentially victimized. Fortunately, Dan Brady was not having any of her bullshit, gave her the gavel and had her removed.
The woman continued pointing and yelling at the council as security had her removed from the chambers, audience members applauding and cheering for her to get out.
All of the arguments of the opposition began to run together after so many hours, but there was some unintentional comedic relief when a woman said, "Do you remember the scene from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ?"
A white woman comparing the plight of "christian persecution" for not being able to legally hate gay people to that of the crucifixion of Christ as well as name dropping the notoriously bigoted Mel Gibson was too much for people to handle. Laughter exploded, and president Brady had to remind the audience to be respectful, no matter how much we disagree with what's being said.
After the first recess during public comments, both the opposition and those in support were forced to intermingle...
In the bathrooms.
A transman later abandoned his prepared speech to tell the council that he had attempted to use the men's bathroom in the county building, but it was full. He then attempted to use the women's room, the place that the transphobic opposition believes he should be due to the gender he was assigned to at birth, and was told "you don't belong here."
So, pray tell, which bathroom is he supposed to use?
Panicky folx stood outside the bathroom doors, not wanting to share the room with trans people. There were multiple instances of religious people trying to "save" openly gay individuals in the hallways, including one woman who brought proverbial fire and brimstone to scream-preach at all of "the heathens."
Darius Stubbs, Cleveland actor and poet gave an impassioned speech after the break, calling out those trying to weaponize their religion by saying, "even Satan can recite perfect scripture."
The fact no one wound up in a physical altercation further proves the remarkable restraint exhibited by the queer community last night.
There were some moments of relief, including Townhall owner, Bobby George who came to publicly disavow the comments made by his father, Tony George at the previous meeting and to speak in full support of the ordinance. Taking such a public stand couldn't have been easy, but there was a palatable sense of solace from those that recognize the power George has in this county, and hearing that he was on our side.
In one of the more moving messages in support of the ordinance, L.S. Quinn recounted the work she has done, as a Christian, working with LGBTQ+ youth that have been cast out by their families. "I cannot give them the love their parents deny them, but I can give them Giant Eagle gift cards."
My previous coverage of the County meeting made a few appearances last night, from both supporters and the opposition. Someone who had spoken against the ordinance at the meeting two weeks ago complained about my calling him an "ignorant idiot," to which the supporting audience applauded. He also complained about his photo being used in the article, despite the fact County meetings are publicly documented and the photos were obtained from the very council he was complaining to.
As the hours passed, people began to leave. A majority of those that spoke in opposition would leave immediately after saying their piece, leaving the council chambers filled with supporters of the ordinance, mostly people who will actually be impacted by the passing of the legislation.
University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan spoke in favor of the ordinance, leaving the audience gobsmacked by saying, "We live in an area where you can be married to the love of your life on a Saturday and be fired from your job over it on a Monday."
Towards the end, the tact and patience of the queer community enduring hours of being shamed, called names, accused of criminal activity and painted as monsters had worn thin.
A retired teacher in opposition compared being transgender to being a flat-earther, and talked about a lack of religion within the LGBTQ+ communities. "Moral poverty is closely tied to economic poverty," she said, along with citing fake facts about transkids. "This is one step toward tyranny!"
The audience couldn't contain their laughter any longer and erupted.
Council President Brady had to take time earlier to remind all of us not to audibly groan or comment whenever the opposition spoke, but at this point, even he appeared too exhausted to discipline anyone.
Speaking second to last was someone I had previously witnessed trying to "save" a gay couple. Normally his words of religious drivel would have been ignored, but the dude sounded just like Macho Man Randy Savage. The man, in his grizzled and "snap into a Slim-Jim"-esque voice, accused the council of being "satanically bewitched."
Council decided to move the vote to the top of the agenda, given the fact we'd all been there for over four hours and waiting another 45 minutes seemed ridiculous.
The 8-3 passing vote didn't come as a shock to anyone, but there was an eruption of cheers and tears the second the ordinance was announced as passed. Cuyahoga County did a good thing last night, and took a historic step for equality in Northeast Ohio, and the entire country.
One of the speakers, Ben Senter, summed it up best, “Give me my life and liberty, because this county has already given me my happiness.”
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