Victory Press Release

CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL PASSES TRANSGENDER NON-DISCRIMINATION LAW

Ask Cleveland: "Turning Point for Local LGBT Rights Movement"

Contact:
David Caldwell, Spokesperson, Ask Cleveland
cell: 216 965 3690
david@askcleveland.org

CLEVELAND, OHIO -- Ask Cleveland, Cleveland's most active LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights organization, hailed Cleveland City Council's unanimous vote tonight to amend the city's non-discrimination law to provide important anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in the areas of employment, housing, and public accomodations.  The measure brings Cleveland closer to the comprehensive protections for transgender people offered by cities like Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo.

 The victory followed a citizen-led grassroots campaign across the city.  "For the first time, thousands of Cleveland voters have spoken out in support of an LGBT rights ordinance," said David Caldwell, spokesperson for Ask Cleveland.  "Every single one of them shares in this historic victory."

Massive Citizen Lobby Effort Swung Vote

Ask Cleveland assembled an unprecedented team of volunteers diverse in age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to persuade Council to support a transgender non-discrimination law.

"We're proud that we fully engaged every member of Cleveland City Council -- and neighborhoods from Collinwood to Edgewater, from Glenville to Fairfax to West Park," said Caldwell.

Prior to November 9, fewer than ten members of Council had expressed support for the transgender rights legislation.The Gay People's Chronicle did a survey August 28 (http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories09/august/0828092.htm) asking members their position on the legislation; 8 responded that they would support it.  The legislation had 5 co-sponsors.  Three dozen Ask Cleveland volunteers asked members their position at the November 9 Council meeting; only 7 unambiguously stated their support.   Only 13 members voted for the last piece of LGBT-related legislation to be considered -- the domestic partnership registry. Members of Council and other LGBT groups only expected 13 or 14 affirmative votes."Cimperman said support would be 'similar or a little stronger' [than the 13-7 vote on the partner registry]" ... Cleveland LGBT Center Director Sue Doerfer, who is working with Cimperman, said there are 14 votes for the ordinance." -- Gay People's Chronicle, http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories09/november/1120091.htm   In the end, the legislation prevailed by a 21-0 vote.

"We received a lot of praise for our effort from members of Council from the west side -- but it's on the east side, 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."

"On the domestic partnership registry, only two of the ten African-American council members voted to support the LGBT community.  This time, all ten did.  We're proud and happy to have built relationships across the city at every level -- from voters in every ward, to opinion leaders of all stripes, and with every member of Cleveland City Council," added Caldwell.

Ask Cleveland ran a 200-day campaign during which:

  • Volunteers made over 6,000 phone calls to build support for the legislation
  • 2,606 voters signed postcards calling on Council to pass the law
  • 150 voters called their representatives to express support for the legislation
  • Over three dozen citizen lobbyists met with all 21 members of Council -- many members several times -- to persuade them to vote in favor
  • Students on seven campuses -- from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, to Oberlin College in Oberlin, to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania -- organized LGBT student groups to campaign for the legislation

Spokesperson:  "The Game Has Changed"

"The game has changed for LGBT rights in Cleveland.  For too long, LGBT community leaders have treated members of the LGBT rights community like sports fans -- asking supporters to show up and cheer when good things happen.  We don't believe sitting in the bleachers is good enough -- we're giving supporters an opportunity to get on the field and play," said Caldwell.

As a broad-based community group, Ask Cleveland hasn't decided on a next move after tonight's vote.  "We know that to obtain the comprehensive protections for transgender people available in other Ohio cities, we would need to do an even better job helping members of Council and the public to understand the issues facing transgender Clevelanders.  And we know that there's work to be done on other LGBT rights issues in Northeast Ohio. We're considering every option, and we've begun discussions with a broad array of opinion leaders in the Cleveland area.  But more importantly, we have a longer, broader discussion to have within our diverse team, and amongst members of the community who might join our team," said Caldwell. "Whatever our next objectives are, we'll focus on two questions:  what will improve the lives of LGBT people in Cleveland? And what will strengthen the local LGBT rights movement for the road ahead?"

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  Ask Cleveland is a broad-based organization of gay rights supporters in greater Cleveland working to protect and advance equal rights for the LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) community.  Ask Cleveland believes that the LGBT community will achieve its goals sooner and more sustainably by inviting more people to participate in the process of securing equal rights for all.  For more information, or to make a financial contribution, visit http://www.askcleveland.org/ 


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