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Cuyahoga County Council Passes Ordinance Expanding LGBT Protections

Supporters of the ordinance cheer after Cuyahoga County Council passes the legislation.

More than 100 people filed into Cuyahoga County Council’s general meeting Tuesday night to discuss an ordinance aimed at expanding rights and protections for the county’s LGBT population.

For more than four hours, county residents brought up religion, children, and personal stories during the public comment period for the ordinance.

“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,” said Madison Woods.

One woman, Deandra Smith, voiced the argument of a number of people who opposed the legislation, saying it did not align with her religious beliefs. “This is not what the city of Cleveland needs right now,” said Smith. “Not in our workplaces, it doesn’t belong in our church, it doesn’t belong in our public facilities. Any place where this is enforced is going to automatically become a danger.”

Smith and several others at the meeting expressed concern that businesses would be required to allow transgender women in women’s restrooms.

In voting no on the ordinance, Councilmember Jack Schron worried about the impact the legislation might have on small businesses.

“These businesses, they don’t have a human resources department,” said Schron. “They don’t have a team of lawyers that can be sitting here trying to create a definition -- they cannot understand how to apply the definition of gender identity.”

Schron wanted to see a religious liberty exemption included in the legislation.

Local restaurant owner Bobby George spoke in support of the proposal, a contrast to his father’s comments at a previous council meeting.

“Although I love my father, I disagree strongly on this issue,” said Bobby George. “My father does not not speak for me, nor does he speak for any of my businesses.”

George’s father Tony had threatened to move his restaurants and bars out of the county if the ordinance passed.

Several other Northeast Ohio cities have passed similar legislation, and representatives from a few of those cities spoke out in support, including residents from South Euclid, North Olmsted, and Cleveland.

Council member Sunny Simon sponsored the ordinance.

“We’re here to move us forward into a place of true humanity where we all can work hopefully together without discrimination and be leaders in the state of Ohio,” said Simon before her vote. “We’re at a special place in Cuyahoga County where we can do this.”