Cleveland City Council Might Actually Vote on that Transgender Restroom Bill from 2013

Remember that packed-house committee meeting in 2014 where Cleveland City Council and a bunch of impassioned residents debated allowing people to use the restroom that matches their gender identity?

You'd be forgiven if you don't. That was a while ago (the ordinance was introduced originally in 2013), and council seems to have been sitting on it ever since. 

But maybe not for long!

Council President Kevin Kelley told BuzzFeed News that they're "trying hard for Monday."

“It may seem that the bill has been a dormant issue to the casual observer," he said, "but we have been working to put something forward that everybody is happy with.”

The ordinance's primary aim is to add "gender identity or expression" to the city's anti-discrimination laws, but the restroom angle is what's gotten everybody all up in a frenzy. If the ordinance passes — or even if a full-council vote is held — Cleveland will land in the insanely heated national debate over this issue. 

We pointed out recently that, while bills always demand vetting, the local and national argument here is very tiring and very sad. It's a distraction.

Let's roll the tape and revisit our coverage from 2014 real quick-like:

Here's a major problem with the tone of public debate: Most negative commenters — in person and online — invert the causal problem at hand and cast transgender men and women as the aggressors. (i.e. If we pass this ordinance, hordes of "men wearing dresses" will start attacking women in their restroom.) Data bears out the fact that if a crime involves a transgender person, that transgender person is usually the victim.

In fact, this legislation isn't even *about* public restrooms, entirely. Cimperman pointed that out, and council staff attorney Jennifer O'Leary said that concerns over restroom bedlam are wholly unfounded.

At one point in the committee discussion today, Councilman Zack Reed asked for the definitions of "sexual orientation," "gender identity or expression," and "expression." Councilman Jeff Johnson reiterated concerns over what he thought were some gray-area definitions. The answers were provided and doused in legal-speak, though. The ordinance was approved in committee, and yellow "Thank You" signs went up from the audience en masse.

(That was when some guy stormed out of the meeting after the ordinance was approved and yelled down the hallway: "It is a fearful day to fall into the hands of the living God!")

OK then. Let's see what council has to say next week.
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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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