Days Before Hosting RNC Convention, Cleveland, Ohio Strengthens Protections for Transgender People

By Megan Clayton • July 13, 2016 • 6:57 pm

Tonight, advocates for LGBT equality can add one more to the list of cities across the country that have passed local ordinances protecting people from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity.


The Cleveland City Council passed the update to the city’s existing civil rights laws—known as Ordinance No. 1446-13. Cleveland’s civil rights laws had previously allowed owners of private businesses that are considered public accommodations to discriminate against transgender people, including in determining which restroom they could use. That passage was stripped by Ordinance No. 1446-13.

Taking a Stand For Transgender Ohioans Days Before the RNC Convenes in Cleveland

The vote comes just days before the 2016 Republican National Convention kicks off in the city.

Earlier this week, the Republican Party advanced a discriminatory platform that includes language extraordinarily hostile to transgender Americans. One plank supports states that are suing the Obama Administration over its recent directive calling on public schools to allow transgender students the freedom to use the facilities and participate in activities that match their gender identity. The proposed language is modeled on North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2 and includes language requiring that a person’s sex corresponds with their birth certificate, creating a new “biological sex” definition.

Another proposed plank would have the Party endorse the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which was heard in a U.S. House committee on Tuesday. The legislation will allow some taxpayer-funded non-profits and not-for-profit government contractors to legally discriminate against legally married same-sex couples and their families.  The bill is similar to a measure that a US District Court judge in Mississippi struck down two weeks ago, claiming it clearly violated the First and 14h amendments to the US Constitution.

Building Momentum for Statewide Non-Discrimination in Ohio

Local advocates—like Equality Ohio, which has led the fight for this change—have been pushing for an updated ordinance since 2009, when the city passed laws to protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing and employment. However, those laws did not protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations. In 2013, local advocates succeeded in bringing the issue before the City Council. Today, three years of unyielding advocacy paid off.

Alana Jochum, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, said today in an email to supporters:

This took a lot of work. Nearly three years of work. Dozens of transgender individuals and allies sharing testimony in support. Hundreds of one-on-one conversations with Clevelanders about what it means to be transgender. Two hearings. Rallies. Sit-ins.

This is a momentous achievement for transgender people in Cleveland and across the Buckeye State, one that could not have happened without the dedication local advocates showed over the past several years. In addition to Equality Ohio, support from Cleveland Advocates for Transgender Equality, PFLAG Cleveland, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, the Movement In Black, the TransCleveland Social Group, and many other groups was key in securing the new protections.

Because of Cleveland’s size, the new ordinance will have an immediate effect on thousands of Ohioans. Equality Ohio estimates the updated ordinance could protect more than 1,000 Cleveland residents from violence and harassment in using public facilities, and it sets the bar for lawmakers in other cities and at the statehouse. There are still no comprehensive, statewide LGBT non-discrimination protections in Ohio, However, a spate of recent updates to local laws—with Cleveland being the biggest city yet to do so—signal that the tide might be changing.

Congratulations to Equality Ohio and all the people and groups who were instrumental in this win tonight!

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