The unanimous approval of a transgender
protections law in Cleveland on Monday was an unexpected victory for
gay activists working for its passage.
The law bans discrimination in the
areas of housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis
of gender identity. Cleveland's anti-discrimination law already
includes sexual orientation, age, race and religion. A last-minute
amendment excludes shared showers, locker rooms and restrooms.
Fears that the legislation was about to
fail were proven unfounded when the entire slate of 21 council
members voted in favor of the legislation.
David Caldwell, spokesman for the
Cleveland-based gay rights group Ask
Cleveland, told On Top Magazine last month that he
believed the bill still faced an uphill battle. “We're working
hard to earn the votes necessary to ensure victory,” he said.
Going into the vote, activists said they expected the bill to be
approved narrowly, but remained uncertain.
The legislation was sponsored by
outgoing Council member Joe Santiago, who introduced the bill in
August. Santiago, who is openly gay, lost his bid for a second term
As lawmakers considered a gay-inclusive
domestic partnership registry in the spring, several council members
were targeted by opponents of gay rights. A group of mostly Black
ministers rallied against the bill, saying it resembled gay marriage,
and threatened to unseat members who favored it. The bill eventually
cleared the chamber and Mayor Frank Jackson signed it into law, but
the chamber split mostly along racial lines, with only 2 out of 10
African-American members voting in favor of passage.
Gay activists lobbied dissenters of the
gay partnership bill; Ask Cleveland delivered more than 2,500
postcards urging council members to approve the bill and join 6 other
Ohio cities that have enacted such protections. But the fear that
Monday's vote would once again fracture mostly along racial lines
“It's … in the African-American
community, where our work had the biggest impact,” said Caldwell.
“We spoke with over a thousand supportive African-American voters,
who helped us dispel the myth that African-Americans don't support
equal rights for the LGBT community – and helped us win the votes
of their representatives.”
Caldwell called the vote a “game
changer” for gay rights in the city.