MEDINA – It is rare for an issue before Medina City Council to draw more than a handful of residents to public meetings, let alone rallies in the center of town and strong social media campaigning, but a couple recent pieces of legislation certainly renewed an interest in local government for many.
Debated and discussed since last year, Medina councilmen passed two ordinances July 8 to establish protections from discrimination for members of the LGBTQ community. Council’s rotunda at Medina City Hall was filled to capacity for a meeting that lasted more than three hours and heard public comments on multiple sides of the issues.
The first ordinance – passed 6-1 – was an amendment to city code to prohibit intimidation on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression or sexual orientation. Voting against it was Ward 1 Councilman Bob Starcher, who, along with five other representatives, is up for election this November.
The second ordinance – passed 5-2 – adopts a new chapter to city code prohibiting discriminatory conduct on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. At-Large Councilman Paul Rose, the only man not up for election this year, voted against it along with Starcher.
Medina’s governing body is the 25th in Ohio to approve such measures for their LGTBQ constituents and visitors.
Councilmen Eric Heffinger (Ward 3) and Bill Lamb (At-Large) had been staunch proponents of the protections. Both men spoke at a rally on Public Square July 7 organized by local LGBTQ support and advocacy group Out Support. Both also took to their social media accounts following the vote.
“What we achieved last night with regard to LGBTQ anti-discrimination legislation sends a clear, powerful, positive message affirming our (community’s) commitment to equality and justice for all,” Lamb stated.
Heffinger called on “our state and national leaders to step up and do the same.”
The push for this new legislation was started in part by the Medina Diversity Project, headed by Pam Miller, a former city councilwoman, and many other local players. They spoke in support of the legislation at a previous committee meeting in June 2018 and while the ordinances traveled through committees this year.
City Law Director Greg Huber previously described the ordinances as a “mediation approach” with enforcement through the law department and warned this area of law also needs to be addressed by state and federal governments for the sake of continuity and to prevent legal challenges.