Metro Weekly

Cleveland City Council approves pro-transgender bathroom ordinance

Council votes to allow transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity

Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena (Photo: Erik Drost, via Wikimedia).

Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena (Photo: Erik Drost, via Wikimedia).

Just days before Republicans hold their national convention in Cleveland, complete with what is being dubbed “one of the most anti-LGBT platforms in party history,” the Democratic-controlled City Council has voted unanimously to amend an existing ordinance to allow transgender people to use restrooms and locker facilities that align with their gender identity.

The measure, Ordinance 1446, removes a special exemption for business owners from the city’s existing nondiscrimination policy, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Under that exemption, private business owners were allowed to dictate which restroom transgender people could use.

An earlier version of the ordinance would have made any violation of its provisions a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail. That was later amended to allow people who believe they have been discriminated against to file complaints with the city’s fair housing court, where judges would determine the penalty for a person found guilty of violating the ordinance.

The new ordinance does not require businesses to build separate or additional facilities for transgender people, or even change signage on restrooms. And religiously-affiliated organizations are still exempt from the law. The ordinance is expected to go into effect by next Saturday, July 23, but it could be sooner if Mayor Frank Jackson signs it into law before then.

The Council’s actions drew praise from the LGBT community, with Equality Ohio hailing it as a victory three years in the making. “Now, transgender Clevelanders and visitors have the dignity of using the restroom matching their gender identity,” the organization said in a statement on its website.

The Human Rights Campaign also weighed in on the ordinance, contrasting it with some of the anti-LGBT language approved by the Republican National Convention’s Platform Committee. While that language has yet to be approved and incorporated into the party’s official platform, the bulk of its provisions are expected to survive when delegates approve the platform next week at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. 

“While national Republican leaders  are doing everything possible to relegate LGBTQ people to second-class citizens, the Cleveland City Council is standing up and sending the world a different message — that Cleveland is a welcoming city and won’t tolerate discrimination against transgender people,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs, said in a statement. “We commend City Council members for setting a pro-equality example for other cities and states by soundly rejecting the dangerous, fear-mongering rhetoric many anti-equality activists are peddling across the country.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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