Westerville city leaders showed support of diversity in the community by approving two ordinances related to equality this month.
Adam Maxwell, the city’s administrative-services director, said both items were identified as short-term goals to expand the city’s nondiscrimination efforts during the Feb. 19 council meeting.
He said the first resolution gives council’s direction to staff to expand the city’s nondiscrimination policy.
“It really boils down to sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identification,” he said.
According to the text of Resolution 2019-11, by approving the legislation, council adopts policy prohibiting discrimination by persons or entities within the city on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Among the reasons cited for the legislation, the text states “council believes that persons who live, work, visit, or conduct business in the city should treat and be treated with respect and should be protected from unlawful and inappropriate discrimination.”
It also states the city manager is directed to investigate, research and recommend for council’s consideration strategies, procedures and appropriate limitations and exemptions for substantial implementation of this policy, and it is subject to further future implementation through appropriate actions by council.
The second resolution addressed official support of Senate Bill 11, which expands protections for gender identification, sexual orientation and gender expression statewide.
Both items were discussed during a March 19 council meeting, along with a list of other items city leaders are working on that would support equality, including an update to the city’s personnel code and guidelines for vendors doing business in Westerville.
Both ordinances passed 5-1 with Councilman Tim Davey voting ‘no’ on both.
Davey said while he thought the intent was good, the net effect was likely to be the opposite of what is intended. He said the government usually makes a problem worse, not better. He also said having the government specify protected classes causes people to view whether or not someone is in a protected class, instead of as an individual, based on their merit.
Maxwell said a draft of a human-relations ordinance would be presented to council during the second quarter of the year, sometime between April and June.
“The thought was that we could have a touch point with council during the second quarter to discuss that,” he said.
Maxwell also said a separate piece of legislation protecting against hate crimes would be brought to council in the third quarter, sometime this summer. He said an actual human-relations ordinance would be brought forth, likely later in 2019.
Worthington is another central Ohio community 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 commission, personnel director and assistant to the city manager for Worthington.
That city’s 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.