Westerville City Council has started discussion toward possible introduction of a nondiscrimination ordinance for the city.

At a Feb. 19 meeting, council discussed the potential for an ordinance after a resident presented more than 200 cards with statements from residents and those who work in Westerville in support of the idea.

"This is a very serious matter, and I'm proud Westerville is discussing this matter," said council Chairman Mike Heyeck.

As part of the discussion, Councilwoman Valerie Cumming urged her fellow council members to act on the matter, saying "This is about the type of community we want to be."

Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, a nonprofit that encourages fair treatment and equal opportunity for all people in Ohio, according to equalityohio.org, spoke before council in support of the concept.

"I am consistently met with surprise when I tell people that it's generally legal to fire someone, deny them housing or deny them basic goods and services just because of who they are and who they love," she said

She said cities in Ohio that have passed nondiscrimination ordinances help illustrate the need for legislation at the state level.

Worthington is in the process of considering the adoption of a nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Worthington Community Relations Commission, which is made up of nine community members appointed by City Council, issued the second draft March 7, said Lori Trego, staff liaison for the Community Relations Commission, personnel director and assistant to the city manager for Worthington.

The proposed ordinance is intended to provide protections against discrimination of age, ancestry, color, disability, familial status, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, military status, national origin, race, sex and sexual orientation, Trego said.

According to the city's website, if approved, protections would extend to housing, services, employment and "public accommodations" through Worthington. Under the ordinance, those who believe they have been discriminated against could file a "charge" with a Worthington city clerk.

In Westerville, no legislation has been officially put forth, but Heyeck said more public meetings would be held when any legislation is considered.

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