SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — City Council has introduced a new chapter for the city code that would protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and public accommodations.
Shaker already has protections established in its Fair Housing law adopted in 1992 and originally covering race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, handicap and familial status.
“Chapter 515” was then amended in 2006 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as additional protected classes in Shaker housing, City Law Director William Ondrey Gruber noted.
“It is our intent to leave Chapter 515 (governing fair housing) alone and enact a new ‘Chapter 516′” protecting the LBGTQ community in employment and public accommodations, Assistant City Law Director Lisa Gold-Scott explained to council.
Prior to the first reading of the legislation on May 13, City Council held a work session with Equality Ohio’s Statewide Civic Engagement Director Gwen Stembridge, who called it a “step in the right direction toward equality and inclusion.”
Stembridge noted that Ohio remains one of 28 states without discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations. And while there are federal laws in place, they only cover businesses with 15 or more employees.
“So in Ohio, it’s still legal to fire people or deny them housing simply because they are gay,” Stembridge told council.
This has led to Cuyahoga County Council’s enactment of additional safeguards last year, joining many surrounding cities that already have them in place, including Beachwood, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Lakewood and South Euclid.
And there has been considerable “public accommodations” debate elsewhere, most notably in North Carolina, where a “bathroom bill” was partially repealed two years ago after the state lost millions through a boycott that included college and professional sports.
As for concerns about sexual predators stalking public restrooms as a result of the proposed public accommodations provisions, Stembridge said, “It doesn’t take away any of the laws about voyeurism, assault and indecent exposure.”
Another reading of the ordinance is expected at council’s next regular meeting May 28, the day after Memorial Day.
In other business at its May 13 special meeting, City Council emerged from an executive session and appropriated $75,000 to the Shaker Heights Development Corp. for real estate acquisition and other activities in the Chagrin-Lee corridor.
“This funding will enable SHDC to take advantage of real estate opportunities in the Lee Road corridor to strengthen our southwestern commercial district and gateway to our city,” Senior Economic Development Specialist Katharyne Starinsky stated in a memo to council.
The city and SHDC are looking at a strategy of “node redevelopment,” in this case with the property next to Process Canine, which moved into the old Lee Road Nursery.
“When evaluating a property, the ED team is looking for nodes where multiple properties can be paired for redevelopment, so each property will be a strategized acquisition,” Starinsky said.
She added that new tenants and facade improvements will “improve the tenant-mix as well as the ‘curb appeal’ in the corridor” and could involve investors, as was done with the dog day care center.
The SHDC remains in charge of The Dealership, which Starinsky noted is “now 82 percent occupied, with Verb Ballets being its most recent tenant, bringing 25 to 30 paid staff and contractors to Lee Road from throughout Greater Cleveland.”
Read more news from the Sun Press.