Every year in Cleveland, we acknowledge an ally of the LGBTQ community who has gone above and beyond with our Ally of the Year award.
For 2016, Equality Ohio is honoring long-time LGBTQ advocate and humanitarian Joe Cimperman.
Joe Cimperman has a long history of caring about marginalized people. Fresh out of graduating from John Carroll University, he started the I Have a Dream Foundation, a program designed to support low-income children with dreams of higher education.
He dedicated two years to service outside of Ohio with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where he worked with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. After returning to Ohio, he worked as an outreach worker at the Westside Catholic Center.
There’s no way to really get to know the community than by meeting the needs of the most marginalized. Joe has done that.
To our eye, Joe is a Catholic that has internalized the meaning of James 2:15-17:
Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”––but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Equality Ohio is honoring Joe because of his contributions, or “good deeds,” for LGBTQ equality in Cleveland.
As a councilman, he was so well trusted that he served as the liaison between city hall, the mayor, and the LGBTQ community. He was key in ensuring that the city’s highest officials were visible at Cleveland Pride as early as 2005.
Cleveland’s LGBT Heritage Day was his creation, and the event is now in it’s 8th year.
When marriage for same-sex couples was illegal in Ohio, Joe started the conversation in Cleveland about a domestic partnership registry––one of the first in Ohio.
He was very instrumental in bringing the 2014 Gay Games to Cleveland, and keeping them in Cleveland amid strong controversy.
And, when the entire country is debating whether or not transgender people have the right to use public restrooms that match their gender identity, Joe co-sponsored and fought for Ordinance 1446-13, which removed a provision in Cleveland’s code making it legal to discriminate against transgender people with regard to restroom use.
Joe is now the CEO of Global Cleveland, a nonprofit organization focused on regional economic development by actively attracting, welcoming and connecting newcomers to Greater Cleveland’s many economic and social opportunities.
For the above displays of demonstrable empathy, humanitarian works, and fierce LGBTQ-allyship, Equality Ohio is honored to award our 2016 Ally of the Year award to Joe Cimperman.