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To mark LGBTQ Pride, Cleveland Heights mayor proposes expanded leave, discrimination policies

Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren speaks from a lectern. An LGBTQ pride flag flies in the foreground.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren marks the start of LGBTQ pride month outside City Hall.

Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren is proposing to expand the city’s parental leave policies and anti-discrimination rules, announcing the moves Wednesday as part of the city’s LGBTQ Pride month celebration.

Seren is also proposing to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” the practice of attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of gay or transgender people.

“We maintain the dignity of every single human being here,” Seren said before raising a Pride flag at City Hall. “So that’s why I’m here. I’m here to make a display of it. We’ve got our progress Pride flags flying.”

Currently, the city allows 90 days of maternity leave for employees who are expectant mothers, with two-thirds of those days covered by sick time. Seren would like to offer full paid leave for any new parents who work for the city.

Such a policy would include adoptive or foster parents, as well as other parents who haven’t given birth themselves, he said.

“That’s men, women, people who are nonbinary, trans men and trans women, all need to be provided the same respect when they’re bringing a child into the home, which is a massive and important responsibility,” Seren said.

The city does not have an estimate for how much such a program would cost. Seren said he is looking to the example of Lakewood, another inner-ring Cleveland suburb that passed a similar measure last year.

Cleveland Heights already bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, education and public accommodations. Rules for city construction contracts also include LGBTQ protections.

The city has also included anti-discrimination language in memorandums of understanding for development deals, according to Council President Melody Joy Hart.

Seren said the city could go further in passing a law requiring the recipients of any city incentives – such as loans, grants and tax-increment financing – to abide by such non-discrimination rules.

“We want to make sure that we’re not participating in a deal that ends up discriminating against anybody,” he said.

The ban on conversion therapy would likely make the practice a criminal offense, although the city was still working out what specific penalties it would propose, Seren said.

Legislation on these measures is expected to be introduced to city council on Monday. Hart said she expected council members, many of whom joined the mayor for his announcement Wednesday, would work together with him on his proposals.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.