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Cleveland's new LGBT center expected to strengthen fight for equality

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-14 18:28:41-04

CLEVELAND — A new symbol of equality stands proudly in Cleveland, a place that supports those who live in fear or face discrimination.

The doors to Cleveland's LGBT Center are now open to the public.

Friday morning, supporters took a small break from the battle for justice to celebrate the new space.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was symbolic, as efforts to support members of the community came out of the basement of a building on Detroit Avenue to a more prominent location across the street.

While there was a feeling of celebration, those on the front line of the fight for equality were still focused on their efforts.

"The battle rages on, not just at a state level but on a national level," Dara Adkison with Stonewall Democrats said.

Adkison, along with many others are working to get Senate Bill 11, the Ohio Fairness Act, passed.

"I have personally experienced discrimination in employment and health care," Adkison said.

In some parts of Ohio, someone can lose their job or be denied housing because of who they are or love.

"It's piece meal by community. Some communities have some protections— other communities do not," Michael Skindell, D-Ohio District 13 said.

The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are among those with non-discrimination ordinances on the books.

"Discrimination is not okay in Cuyahoga County. Discrimination is not okay in Cleveland. It's not okay to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, but we still need that statewide," Gwen Stembridge of Equality Ohio said.

The Ohio Fairness Act would do that by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Ohio's civil rights code.

"I would like to be able to know that my child isn't going to be discriminated against for having more than one mom. I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation,” Adkison said.

For years now, similar proposals have failed.

"The coalition is growing stronger. A lot of times it takes a number of years to get legislation through, it's building the coalition and building the support and that's what you're seeing with the Ohio Fairness Act," Skindell said.

Many believe the new LGBT center will strengthen efforts to expand protections for members of the LGBT community, not only here in Northeast Ohio, but statewide as it will give different organizations the space to collaborate under one roof.

As for the future of the Ohio Fairness Act, after two hearings the bill sits idle.

Senator John Eklund, Chair of the Senate's Ways and Means Committee, will decide whether it receives any more hearings.

News 5 reached out to his office Friday and we were told its fate has not yet been determined.

"It's important for justice, making sure everyone is treated equally and fairly," Skindell said.

In the meantime, advocates remain optimistic.

"The progress is the most we've had within a decade," Adkison said.

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