Greetings readers! I am Dani, a graduate-level social work intern at the LGBT Community Center from Case Western Reserve University, concentrating in community practice.
Early in December, I had the opportunity as an intern to join Equality Ohio in supporting a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill for South Euclid, Ohio. This bill is still in the hearing process at City Council, so my policy-loving heart really enjoyed seeing local government in action. As there is no employment, housing, or public accommodation protections for LGBTQ individuals in either United States legislation or the State of Ohio, local municipalities have great power in ensuring access and equality to all citizens.
South Euclid currently has a nondiscrimination ordinance for housing, protecting LGBTQ citizens and their families from housing discrimination. The proposed policy in South Euclid, Ohio seeks to take this existing fair housing ordinance and place it into a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that will ensure equal access for all to employment, housing, and public accommodations. This legislation would not only benefit LGBTQ individuals, but individuals across South Euclid. Under the current proposal the following classes would be protected: race, creed, color, religious belief, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, handicap, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, recipient of public assistance, military status, and physical characteristics.
As there is increasing visibility of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in media and in the White House, small steps can do wonders to make LGBTQ folks like me feel safe. Throughout the hearing, I had a tally going in my notebook, counting testimony from those speaking for and against protections for LGBTQ people. As each person got up to make comment on the proposed bill, I felt myself get tense and apprehensive. What will they say? Will they fight for my right to live happily with my partner? Or will they make me fearful of entering a place of business? As the hearing went on, it was practically one for one. One person would stand up for equality and fairness and another would say harmful and hurtful things about my community and myself. There were cheers, gasps, prayers, and snaps. The public comment went on for about two hours.
It was a hard night, if I’m being honest. Yet, my hope lies in the tallies. By the end of the night, my shaky tallies on the for side just out numbered the against. I find strength in those who had the courage to stand up and speak into the microphone and fight for equality and access. I am grateful for everyone who spoke up that night. As this administration continues to batter our community with tougher and tougher blows, I take wins where I can get them. As a social work student, I am guided by a few core values. One is the dignity and self-worth of all. Passage of this proposed nondiscrimination ordinance promises this affirmation for all South Euclid citizens and it is something I wholeheartedly stand for. South Euclid has the opportunity to make a difference, and I applaud the Council for taking on this issue and working with great people like the staff at Equality Ohio.
For more information about Equality Ohio and opportunities to get involved in advocacy, check out their website. If you live or work in South Euclid, please reach out to City Council to support the nondiscrimination ordinance.