A controversial ordinance protecting reproductive healthcare decisions and adding onto Bowling Green’s anti-discrimination law was adopted by council on Monday.
A divided and passionate crowd of over 100 spoke both for and against the ordinance and amendments, which were spearheaded by Councilman Nick Rubando. The issue was first introduced last month and received its third and final reading on Monday.
The meeting was moved from the Bowling Green city building to the Wood County Job and Family Services, to accommodate the expected large crowd.
Rubando, before the vote on Monday, said that the city’s current anti-discrimination ordinance was good, but it needed to be improved.
“I think having people speak today, shows that people did not feel protected,” he said. “It think saying that we have a pretty good non-discrimination ordinance is not good enough. In the city of Bowling Green, we strive to be the best.”
The ordinance, with its amendments, is the best in the state of Ohio, Rubando said.
Further amendments introduced by Rubando were approved by council on Monday. The final adoption passed 6-1, with Councilman Bill Herald against.
The new amendments clarify that no corporation or organization is affected by the legislation, Rubando said. It also does not mandate any services.
Councilman Joel O’Dorisio said that the ordinance with the amendments will expand and protect the rights of the citizens.
“Defending the rights of the citizens of Bowling Green is part of our business at city council,” he said.
Councilman Greg Robinette said the core issue for him is freedom. He voted in favor of the ordinance after the additional amendments were approved on Monday.
Robinette praised the original 2009 anti-discrimination ordinance, which he said was broadly written. It was also amended last year.
“Our code is not broken, deficient or in need of fixing,” he said.
Robinette also said that this discussion took away from city business, like roads and emergency services — which was followed by long applause from the audience.
Herald introduced an amendment on Monday defining “sex.” He said the language would be “tidied up” with his change.
Rubando urged council to leave the language alone, and Herald’s proposed changes failed 6-1.
The vote was preceded by over an hour of comments from the audience, which was limited to 2 minutes of time at the podium.
Hannah Servedio, who works for Pro-Choice Ohio, said the amendments do not force anyone to provide services that they do not want to provide.
“This comprehensive ordinance will protect everyone in Bowling Green and I urge its swift passage,” she said.
Bob Cooley said he was dismayed by “this attack on pro-lifers.” He urged Rubando to learn more about the Nest, which offers free Christian childcare in the city.
“You need to go volunteer at these places so you can learn about the real selfless loving lives you have been taught to despise,” Cooley said. “Not only will your legislation bury our city in legal fees, but it will destroy the loving diversity that now exists in Bowling Green.”
Jessica Carpenter said that this legislation is a stepping stone to eliminate organizations like the Nest from the community
“We do not want it,” she said.
Carol Tyson said that pregnant women are already a protected class.
“Is the city attempting to legislate what medical treatments are acceptable?” she said.
Theresa Nieberding said it’s her decision on whether to have a child.
“I really don’t want to bring a kid into this world right now … and if that means getting an abortion, I will,” she said, adding that pregnancy centers are predatory.
Bea Fields said the amendment will protect people who need gender-affirming surgery, which Fields does.
Fields said a woman at the meeting said Fields was demonic.
“It doesn’t make me feel very safe,” Fields said. “I urge you to keep all the wording here.
“It will not only protect people who do want an abortion, it will also protect people like me — and they are here in Bowling Green,” she said.
Lindsay Durham said she was in favor of the amendments.
“As a woman, I’m sick and tired of men making decisions on women’s health,” she said.
The legislation approved on Monday amends Section 39.01 of the city’s codified ordinances.
Rubando brought forward the changes, with the description that the unlawful discrimination protections found in Chapter 39 of BG’s Codified Ordinances protect individuals against discrimination, including in the workplace, business establishments, places of public accommodation, and education institutions.
Protected classes include race, ethnicity, religion, age and sexual orientation.
When it was passed in 2009, Chapter 39 included “sex” as a protected class.
The intent of the amendments was to add a definition of sex that expressly protects people’s reproductive healthcare decisions, gives protections to breastfeeding mothers, as well as pregnant individuals or those seeking to become pregnant.