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On the Ballot — Deciding the Fate of LGBT Rights in Ohio

Morgan Patten,
ACLU of Ohio
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October 27, 2010

This election season, the fight for LGBT equality isn’t in a big city or coastal state, but rather in a small town in northwestern Ohio. In 2009, Bowling Green, Ohio, became one of 22 cities or counties in the state that bans discrimination in housing or employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But now, Bowling Green is facing a repeal of its nondiscrimination ordinances this November.

After the passage of the two nondiscrimination ordinances that would protect residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, pregnancy, and a host of other characteristics, opponents of equality gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of the ordinances on the November ballot.

The opposition is employing the same lies and scare tactics they have used in other places throughout the country to take away nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Recently, mailers were sent to Bowling Green residents suggesting that the nondiscrimination protections create “special rights,” and warns voters that the ordinances somehow makes it legal for would-be predators to enter women’s bathrooms and prey on women and children. Clearly, criminal laws prohibit predatory behavior. It is simply absurd to suggest that making it illegal to fire someone from their job or kick them out of their house because of who they are somehow opens the floodgate to illegal behavior or creates “special rights.” But, LGBT advocates know this rhetoric based in fear and misinformation has been successful in the past.

Local activists are continuing to fight back with ONE Bowling Green, an extension of the group that was initially formed to help pass the ordinances last year. Weekly canvassing, phone banking, and get-out-the-vote efforts are underway to save the ordinance, and while the opposition brings in out-of-town speakers to stir up anti-LBGT sentiment, the Bowling Green residents who make up the group are out canvassing their neighbors and reminding them to support fairness.

Although the potential repeal of these nondiscrimination ordinances is a local issue first, the result of the election is important for all Ohioans and for supporters of LGBT equality across the nation. A successful challenge in Bowling Green could lead to similar challenges in the scores of cities across the U.S. that currently protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing and employment. We’ve seen it before in places like Gainesville, Florida, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Join us in our effort to stop this discriminatory effort once and for all. The discrimination must stop here!