Community summit sets goals for Equality Ohio
Columbus--Getting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Ohioans and their allies connected with each other was the goal of Equality Ohio�s community summit on December 9, along with setting some long range goals for the organization.
Equality Ohio director Lynne Bowman described how LGBT support--the state�s highest ever--helped produce last month�s election results. It also proved the community�s strength.
�We can do this,� she said. �This is incredible.�
One of the candidates helped by Equality Ohio was treasurer-elect Richard Cordray. He addressed the 82 people gathered in the basement of King Avenue United Methodist Church, where Equality Ohio was launched by another community meeting in 2005.
�I came to say thank you,� said Cordray, �for your efforts and for your persistence in this hostile environment.�
�We�re in a struggle for the soul of Ohio,� Cordray continued. �The good results were encouraging because they show the fight is winnable, but those forces remain an obstacle that needs to be overthrown.�
Cordray said that promoting equality �is the right way for us to live and the right way to form our society. Unfortunately, the other side understands that as well.�
The all-day summit was attended by people from groups in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati Dayton, Toledo, Akron, Canton, Athens, Delaware, Wooster, Bowling Green, Warren, Youngstown and Zanesville. Other state and national organizations present included the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, America Votes, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio AIDS Coalition.
Before the meeting broke into work groups to discuss where to direct future efforts, Equality Ohio policy and education director Bo Shuff laid out what he called the �road map� for the next Ohio legislative session.
This includes non-discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; hospital visitation rights; hate crime protection; a measure to correct the sex on birth certificates after reassignment surgery; and safe schools bill that protects LGBT students.
Shuff announced that next year�s LGBT lobby day would be Wednesday, May 16. Equality Ohio has set a goal that every legislative district be represented.
The �Our Stories� video was debuted. It was distributed to all current Ohio legislators and legislators elect last week by volunteers.
According to Shuff, the 11-minute DVD of LGBT citizens and families describing how Ohio laws and policies hurt them �changes the way legislators look at our community.�
It was also announced that the Equality Ohio Education Fund has commissioned the first statewide baseline poll on voter attitudes about LGBT issues in Ohio and expects to release the results after the first of the year. The poll results will be used to set the group�s strategy and to evaluate the success of future plans.
�Seeing the people from communities and organizations around Ohio who are working hard at creating change and impacting hearts and minds in their local area was so empowering,� said Bowman of the event. �We�re in such a different point as a community than we were two years ago. The energy and sense of cooperation in the room on Saturday should make us all excited about the opportunities we have in Ohio.�