An article published on Cleveland.com falsely suggested that the city's proposed gender identity non-discrimination ordinance would be exploited by men who want to sneak into women's restrooms and showers.
The Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would expand the city's non-discrimination law to prohibit business from denying transgender people access to restrooms or facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
In a November 6 article published on Cleveland.com, Northeast Ohio Media Group (NEOMG) reporter Leila Atassi claimed the legislation would “open all public restrooms and showers to both sexes”:
In an effort to help transgendered people feel more comfortable using public restrooms, Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would require businesses to make their restrooms, showers and locker rooms available to both sexes.
And barring one gender from using a facility designated for the other would be a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine.
The measure, which will be discussed at a Workforce and Community Benefits Committee meeting Wednesday, is part of a package of ordinances that update the city's existing anti-discrimination laws to include the transgender community. (Read the legislation in the document viewer below.)
Councilmen Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone, who sponsored the legislation dealing with the “public accommodations” of private businesses, said in interviews Thursday that the measure is designed to give transgender people the power to use whichever restroom aligns with their gender identity.
Contrary to the article's suggestion, nothing about the ordinance calls for unbridled access to public restrooms. The measure -- which mirrors measures already adopted in many parts of the country -- prohibits businesses from denying access to restrooms or other facilities based on a customer's “gender identity or expression.”
Indeed, as the article acknowledged, evidence from states and cities that have had similar laws in place for years has debunked the myth that “pedophiles and voyeurs” will exploit protections for transgender people.
After critics condemned the article's problematic framing on Twitter, Atassi defended her description of the ordinance.
NEOMG is owned by the same company as Cleveland's The Plain Dealer, which has been similarly criticized for its coverage of transgender issues. In 2013, the paper was criticized for its "horrific" coverage of the murder of a transgender woman, prompting the paper to agree to meet with members of the local transgender community. Both NEOMG and The Plain Dealer reporters contribute to Cleveland.com.