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Published: Wednesday, 8/19/2009

B.G. official hails anti-bias laws

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN Changes to Bowling Green s anti-discrimination laws should have little impact on most residents, but they could make all the difference for some, said John Zan fardino, a councilman representing the city s 2nd Ward.

To me, an ordinance like this is just a step of progress, he said yesterday. Whether it results in complaints or successful complaints, I think they ll be minimal, but I think in Bowling Green there will be fewer examples of people being told, We don t rent to your kind.

After listening to residents comments for nearly two hours, city council late Monday night voted 7-0 to expand the list of protected classes in the city s fair housing ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, and marital status, as well as military and veteran status, physical characteristics, and genetic information.

By a 6-1 vote, council also adopted a new ordinance that protects those groups from discrimination in employment, at business establishments and educational institutions, and for city services. The legislation creates a process for complaints of discrimination to be investigated and potentially resolved through conciliation, although offenders could be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor if the situation cannot be resolved.

Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Frost cast the only dissenting vote, saying he believed recourse already existed through the Ohio Civil Rights Commission which has the wherewithal, the funding, the investigators that can investigate discrimination against anybody at any time.

Sixteen other Ohio communities, including Toledo, have adopted similar anti-discrimination legislation.

A standing-room-only crowd of residents, university students, and business owners packed the Simpson Building to speak out in support of and in opposition to the legislation on grounds ranging from moral issues to equal rights.

Some argued it would hurt businesses, others said it would enhance the business community.

Andy Schocket, president of the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation, said opponents argued the legislation was vague but they didn t give examples. They claimed it could be expensive for the city, he said, yet other cities that have adopted similar ordinances say there s little to no cost.

I think we re dancing around a lot of issues here about what these two ordinances are really about which is the extent to which we want to extend protections to all members of this community, especially to those who are most vulnerable and those who will actually contribute to economic growth in our area, he said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:jfeehan@theblade.comor 419-724-6129.



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