City of Westerville Gathers ‘Public Input’ for More Pro-LGBT Ordinances

 

The City of Westerville held a “public roundtable” Thursday to get input on their non-discrimination policies which are expected to be proposed later this month. The invitation said the roundtable was to “talk about how we can help #Westerville remain a welcoming, safe community for all citizens.”

 

The questions publicly advertised for the event included:

What brought you here tonight?

One consideration of a non-discrimination ordinance includes exemptions for certain types and sizes of organizations as follows:

Religious organizations, asked on First Amendment rights;

What constitutes a small business organizations. Federal standards are set at 15 employees, while State of Ohio standards are set at 3 employees.

Thoughts on each of these?

There are considerations of a potential relationship with the Columbus Cultural Relations Commission for fielding, investigating, mediating, hearing and adjudicating the complaint process. What thoughts do you have on this proposed process as described in the presentation?”

One anonymous participant called the event “Kabuki Theater.” Members of the public were sorted into groups when they arrived, supporters of pro-LGBTQ ordinances and the undecided were identified with large name tags. Those opposed were directed to a city table where people were signed in and given a table number.

Each table had a leader assigned who was from the city. The table leaders were tasked with reporting the consensus of the table after the discussion.

Another unnamed attendee told The Ohio Star, “It is clear the city has been working with LGBTQ+ groups for some time and tonight was no exception. Having planned this meeting with LGBTQ+ groups long before the official announcement went out, it is no surprise those against the ordinance were outnumbered 7 to 1, 8 to 1 if you count the table leaders. This is a very effective method to filter out dissent.”

Also noted was the facilitator, Adam Maxwell, Director of Administrative Services for the city, never asked the question of whether or not the ordinances should be considered at all.

Jim Harrison, Director of the Natural Family Foundation, was among the participants. He also noted how the attendance appeared stacked against dissenters. At his table he told The Ohio Star, “I met a father of a gay son and grandmother as well, a mother with two gay children, a high school psychologist. Half of my group of 12 attend church on a regular basis, have of them went to the same liberal Methodist church…Also at my table was a very liberal mother of two homosexuals from Hilliard. Her hope is that she can start this insanity in Hilliard as well.”

Westerville City Councilman Tim Davey said, “The purpose of that [the roundtable discussion] was to have each table provide input on certain questions that staff wanted to have feedback on to provide to council. There may have been some council input on questions, but that would have happened through Mike Heyeck, the Council Chair.”

The city passed their first resolutions supporting LGBT issues in March. Resolution 2019-11, “…expanded city policy supporting diversity and to direct actions in accordance therewith.” The second resolution, 2019-12, was to show public support for Senate Bill 11, the Democrat Bill to add LGBT rights to Ohio’s Civil Rights statutes.

The first legislation, Ordinance No 2019-11, was introduced at the April 16th meeting and ultimately passed May 21st. The new law is “…to implement the expanded city policy supporting diversity.”

Davey was the only no vote on all three issues.

The new laws expected to be considered this month, the purpose for which the roundtable “discussions” were held, are a Human Relations Ordinance, an Ethnic Intimidation Ordinance and a Right of Way Ordinance.

The Human Relations plan is being driven by Council Members Valerie Cumming and Alex Heckman.

The Ethnic Intimidation bill is similar to hate crimes legislation. “While the details have not been revealed yet, it is my understanding they intend on increasing whatever penalties they can if they can attribute it to a hate crime,” Davey shared.

Regarding the “Right of Way” ordinance, “Again we don’t know the details yet, but from what I’ve learned so far any company using the right of way will likely be compelled to obey the Westerville policy for anti-discrimination,” Davey told The Ohio Star. Such businesses are likely to include public utilities and even road construction companies.

“I think the law department will include the necessary religious exemptions to avoid mistakes that they believe other communities have made,” Davey said. “Necessary” is expected to be based upon the court losses other communities have faced after being sued.

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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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