Raised by lesbian couple, CLE Hts mayor fights to make city more inclusive


CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Sitting on the pride bench in Denison Park, Cleveland Heights Mayor Kahlil Seren and his family is shifting the norm in our country and they’re proud to make it the norm.

“Kahlil and his brother grew up in an environment where we were proud to be African American,” said Seren’s mother Leslye Huff. “We were proud to be lesbians, Mary and I.”

Seren and his brother grew up in a household with two women, his mother Leslye Huff and his stepmother Mary Ostendorf.

Now years later, neither of the women was shocked to learn that Seren is pursuing legislation to protect his LGBTQ residents.

“I wasn’t surprised, even as a youngster I saw him as a change agent not afraid to state the reality as he saw it,” said Ostendorf.

Monday night the mayor introduced multiple ordinances.

One ordinance would ban conversion therapy, another would strengthen consequences for discrimination against gender identity and sexual orientation in city contracts with developers and contractors.

A third ordinance expands parental leave to non-binary, trans and queer employees.

“Each one of us had our struggles as lesbians in a society, the children caught a lot of that too because they were our children,” said Ostendorf.

Just within the past few weeks Seren has raised pride flags, unveiled crosswalks and benches, so this new legislation is just another way the mayor says he wants to ensure his residents feel welcome.

“There was no possible way that based on the way that I was raised that I wouldn’t bring those values to the table for Cleveland Heights,” he said.

Huff and Ostendorf said they are proud to see their son fighting for all marginalized groups, especially a group that includes two women who love and are proud of him.

“If everyone is not welcomed in Cleveland Heights then no one is and that’s the thing that people need to understand, there can be no in group unless everyone is in,” said Huff.

RELATED: Cleveland Heights kicks off Pride Month

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