Ohio City of Medina Holds ‘Concerned Citizens’ Referendum Seeking to Overturn LGBT Ordinance

 

Medina’s Finance Director Keith Dirham, by following the letter of the law, is holding up a referendum that Concerned Citizens of Medina City filed last week aimed at overturning a recently-passed SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) law, Ordinance 112-19. Dirham has put it on hold for 10 days, which will push them past the filing deadline of August 7th, potentially keeping their referendum off the fall ballot.

The purpose of ordinance 112-19 is, “To prohibit discriminatory conduct on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.”

The citizens needed 984 signatures which is 10% of the most recent gubernatorial vote. They collected 1,173. According to Ohio Revised Code section 731.29, the petition for referendum had to be filed within 30 days of the ordinance passing. It passed on July 10th.

The law also requires both a hold of 10 days by the city auditor or clerk – or presumably the Finance Director – and that a certified copy be sent to the board of elections no later than 4:00pm the ninetieth day before the election, which is August 7th. Those two requirements are in conflict in the current situation.

Concerned Citizens of Medina are led by Joann Campbell, Linda Woolstein, and Bill Smallman. Together with other Medina residents totaling nearly 50 citizens, they gathered the signatures with the hope of placing the petition for referendum on the fall ballot so that all city voters would have a say over whether or not they want the SOGI ordinance.

The group shared the following areas of concern with the new city policy in their press release when they filed their petitions last week:

  • This LGBTQ special rights ordinance provides for a public accommodation section on page 6 of the ordinance. It allows for persons of any “gender identity or expression” to be allowed in any public restroom of the opposite sex.
  • Medina City Schools also have to allow those students that perceive themselves to be transgender to enter restrooms, locker rooms, and showers of the opposite sex.
  • Students may be able to choose to compete in sports as a gender opposite of their birth gender.
  • The City of Medina would face making costly investigations into citizen claims of discrimination based on gender identity and expression which are difficult to prove.

They are also concerned about the expense to businesses who will be forced to add new accommodations to buildings. Any owner who wants to protect the privacy of women and men will have to add a third bathroom option, if that is a permissible option.

As reported by The Ohio Star, the ordinance applies to housing, employment and public accommodations. School buildings will be affected during non-school hours by the ordinance, according to City Law Director Gregory Huber. However, Huber also stated he knew schools in the Medina area were allowing students to use the locker rooms and bathrooms of their gender identity already, per President Obama’s letter of guidance from May 2014, and in spite of President Trump’s rescission of “the guidance.”

Chris Long of the Ohio Christian Alliance said, “We are putting together a press release that will be out later today. We are waiting to hear back from our attorney as to what motion we might file.” The group is considering their legal options and could file a legal challenge as early as Monday.

Two members of the Medina City Council voted against the ordinance. Five supported it. One of the opponents, Robert Starcher, warned the council against taking this action, since the United States Supreme Court is planning to address the issue in their fall session. Any action now could result in lawsuits the city cannot afford, he noted.

Based upon the city Finance Director’s actions, a lawsuit could come sooner than expected.

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to bethlearreports@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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