On December 21, Youngstown became 16th city in Ohio to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations
At 2016 Youngstown Pride, Mayor John McNally struck up a conversation with Equality Ohio’s Gwen Stembridge. The topic was a recent law change in Newark that made the city’s laws more inclusive of LGBTQ people. The Mayor was curious about what Youngstown could do to be more inclusive of all citizens.
At the time, Councilwoman Anita Davis–– the first openly gay person elected to office in the county––was working on extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ employees of the city. Community leaders were brought in to the discussion, and eventually it was identified that the entire city would benefit from protections against discrimination.
Anita Davis, councilwoman for the 6th Ward, thinks this is a positive step for Youngstown. “Less than a decade ago I publicly came out of the closet. I was on a local radio show. I was scared as I spoke that I might have just flushed away my 25 year police career. Now here I am serving on city council, the body that has just voted to approve a comprehensive slate of ordinances prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people. It’s a wonderful step forward. But let no one forget – the struggle continues.”
Mayor McNally’s proud of the message this sends. “Youngstown City Council’s decision to unanimously support this legislation is proof that our City welcomes everyone to be a part of our expanding community”, said McNally. “I hope that our approval of these important LGBTQ protections, along with similar approvals by 15 other Ohio cities, will embolden the Ohio General Assembly to finally enact statewide LGBTQ protections to make Ohio a truly inclusive state for ALL people.”
Kage Coven, Youngstown resident, said “I know many folks outside of the LGBTQ community were stunned to hear that these protections didn’t already exist in 2016. I and many others were afraid to take partners to work functions for fear of losing their jobs. But with these protections in place, I and so many others that I know and love don’t have to worry about termination for something most others take for granted-being themselves”
Youngstown is the 16th city to enact these type of protections for LGBTQ people. Gwen Stembridge, northeast Ohio coordinator for Equality Ohio, thinks there’s still a long way to go. “I applaud the work of cities like Youngstown,” said Stembridge. “It’s surprising to hear, but in most parts of Ohio you can be fired just because you are LGBTQ. Ohio ultimately needs to include LGBTQ people in its state laws that make discrimination illegal.”
Youngstown joins Athens, Bexley, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Coshocton, Dayton, East Cleveland, Lakewood, Newark, Oxford, Toledo and Yellow Springs in having comprehensive protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people in employment, housing and public accommodations.