Local Steps Forward: Policies Updated, Protections Passed, and Pending Progress

By Shane Stahl • June 8, 2018 • 6:07 pm

Quite a bit has been happening at the local level over the past few months — including new nondiscrimination protections being passed into law, transgender-inclusive bathroom public accommodations policies in schools being discussed, and the launch of an exciting new profile series of transgender people in Ohio. Below, we’ve compiled some of the highlights of April and May of this year.  

SOUTH EUCLID, OH

In mid-April, South Euclid became the 20th city in the Buckeye State to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations for LGBTQ people.

City council members voted unanimously to pass the ordinance after several months of discussion and debate among council as well as individuals and groups residing in the city, including religious and school groups.

Marilyn Murray, who described herself as a Catholic woman who’s proud of her Catholic education, said: “I was raised with the value of ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ I am grateful for that education. I’m asking you to act in a way that reflects that we’re one world and one family.”

Ohio still lacks statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, although House Bill 160, also called the Ohio Fairness Act, received a second hearing in committee for the first time in its history on January 31. The bill currently awaits a third before it can move to the floor of the House.

CHICAGO, IL

The city’s Oak Park and River Forest High School Board have adopted a more inclusive bathroom policy, beginning at the end of April, which requires students “be treated and supported in a manner consistent with their gender identity” and allowed “access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identification.”

Board members had been working to expand the policy since August 2017, after receiving a petition signed by over 700 parents, alumni, and students. Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams worked with groups representing transgender youth to tailor the policy to be fully inclusive.

MONTEVALLO, AL

In a big step forward for equality in Alabama, the city of Montevallo passed comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations on April 23, making it only the second city in the state to have an ordinance like this, following Birmingham in 2017.

“Now that Montevallo has joined Birmingham in passing a comprehensive LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, it is time for other cities in Alabama to follow these communities’ lead in protecting all people from bias and discrimination,” said Eva Kendrick, state director of Alabama’s branch of the Human Rights Campaign.

Alabama is still one of 31 states with no statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

AKRON, OH

A new and innovative series of profiles featuring transgender people in Akron, OH has been launched in collaboration with the Akron Community Foundation and their partner foundation, the Gay Community Endowment Fund.

The series was launched in an effort to bring awareness and visibility to the city’s transgender population, the latest in a series of LGBTQ-friendly steps happening in America’s former “Rubber City.”

In mid-2017, after much collaboration with Equality Ohio, Akron passed comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations; following this, the city held its first-ever Pride celebration, an initiative largely spurred on by Mayor Dan Horrigan.

HATBORO, PA

On May 28, by a vote of 4-3, Hatboro City Council approved a nondiscrimination ordinance that will protect LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

A similar ordinance was passed by council in 2010; however, it was vetoed by then-Mayor Norm Hawkes, who argued the issue of nondiscrimination ordinances should be handled at the state and not local level.

However, current Mayor Nancy Guenst, one of the councilpersons who voted for the 2010 ordinance, says the state’s inability to pass a comprehensive statewide ordinance is the reason local laws need to be strengthened. The Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would establish these protections, has stalled in the House’s State Government Committee since Allegheny Rep. Dan Frankel introduced it nearly a year ago.

Current Councilwoman Elle Anzinger said before voting, “As a cisgender heterosexual white woman, I feel it is my duty and my conscience will be clean. And it is my honor to vote (yes) this evening and I thank you to Hatboro for that.”

EVANSVILLE, IN

The Evansville Vanderburgh School Board has been asked to add gender identity and expression to its current nondiscrimination policy in an attempt to look out for the welfare of all children in the district.

The move has largely been spearheaded by Bethel United Church of Christ Rev. Raygan Baker, who ministers to the church’s youth.

“Making schools safer and more welcoming for even a few students makes it safer and more welcome for all of them,” he told the school board. “It’s about student safety first and ultimately about providing the most outstanding educational opportunities through shared, committed responsibility – that’s your vision stance – for each and every student in your care.”

The school’s attorney said that a comprehensive bullying program is in place, and that no student is discriminated against for any reason.

Several community members and students have asked the district to add specific protections for transgender and gender nonconforming students. To date, the school board has yet to act on these requests.

AUGUSTA, GA

A nearly two year battle to pass employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ city employees in the city of Augusta may soon be coming to an end.

A city committee reviewing and reworking the personnel manual believes they will have the votes necessary to enact the protections before of the annual Pride festival, during the third week of June.

“We’ve been meeting with the commissioners one by one and not only did we not have any push-back, every one of them left our meetings in full support,” said Matthew Duncan, president of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Augusta. “It sounds like they’re trying to show a message of support for Pride month.”

Augusta would join other cities such as Atlanta, Savannah and Macon that already have the protections for government employees.

“The city employs thousands of people so there are plenty who are LGBT,” Duncan said. “You don’t want to worry that if somebody finds out you’re married to your LGBT partner that you’ll get fired. Everybody deserves that protection.”


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