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Cleveland--“I want ‘home’ to be the word that each of us use to describe Ohio--home in the best sense of the word,” Governor Ted Strickland told a gathering of LGBT activists last weekend. “Ohio needs to be welcoming for each of us.”
“We want even straight people to be welcome in Ohio,” he added.
Strickland made the comments as guest speaker of the 15th annual Cleveland Human Rights Campaign fundraising dinner on March 29.
In his 2006 race against anti-LGBT Republican Ken Blackwell, Strickland, a Democrat, became the first non-federal candidate ever endorsed by HRC.
Strickland explained how he created a new judicial selection process to help the judiciary “represent the makeup of Ohio.”
“And with the appointment of Mary Wiseman, the first openly [lesbian] judge in Ohio, another barrier was broken down and another highly qualified person is on the bench,” Strickland continued to loud cheers.
Strickland also recognized Mary Jo Hudson of Columbus, who serves in his cabinet as the Director of Insurance, and Cleveland’s John Corlett, who is the state’s Medicaid director. Both are openly gay.
Strickland told the 575 people in the Key Center Marriott’s ballroom that he believes an LGBT anti-discrimination bill, currently in the Ohio House and Senate, will pass.
“And I look forward to celebrating with you when I sign it into law,” Strickland said of the Equal Housing and Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Strickland closed by saying that the depth, purity and authenticity of love does not depend on the gender of the person giving it or the person receiving it.
“May you all find love that is deep, pure and authentic,” Strickland concluded.
Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, a longtime friend of the LGBT community, also spoke briefly to thank community members for their support.
“We are your political partners and your policy partners,” Fisher said.
He introduced a number of elected officials who attended the dinner.
They included Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, State Sen. and U.S. congressional candidate John Boccieri, State Sen. Dale Miller, State Rep. and Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern, State Reps. Armond Budish, Mike Skindell and Mike Foley, Cleveland City Councilor Joe Cimperman, Lakewood City Councilor Nickie Antonio, and former Cleveland mayor Jane Campbell.
U.S. District Court judges Dan Polster and Ann Aldrich also were there, as were Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Ann Blackmon, retired Court of Appeals Judge Diane Karpinski, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges Stuart Friedman and Steven Terry, and East Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Sandra Walker.
Comedian Jason Stuart emceed and entertained.
The Federal Club fundraising address was delivered by special guest Eric Alva.
As a Marine staff sergeant, Alva was the first American wounded during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Three hours into the operation, he stepped on a land mine.
Following the amputation of his leg, Alva received a Purple Heart and announced that he is gay. Since then, his calls for an end to “don’t ask don’t tell” have appeared in People magazine and on Oprah.
HRC president Joe Solmonese delivered the organization’s message.
Answering critics of the way HRC handled its legislative agenda last year, Solmonese talked about “believing in the politics of the possible, even when others don’t.”
HRC is perceived to have abandoned its commitment to transgender Americans because it supported a move to take gender identity and expression out of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to avoid putting conservative Democrats on the spot, and out of fear that Republicans would send that section back to committee or derail the bill.
HRC was also unable to pass its top legislative priority, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate crime laws. This occurred because the measure’s sponsors, Senators Edward Kennedy and Gordon Smith, attached it to a war appropriation bill in an attempt to avoid a presidential veto.
The bill passed the Senate, but was stopped in the House by anti-war Democrats.
HRC has stood by its incrementalist strategy for legislative progress, despite opposition from state LGBT organizations.
“We can dwell on it or we can move on,” Solmonese said.
“We are committed to the politics of the possible,” said Solmonese, “while laying the groundwork for goals out of our reach.”
“We will pursue the politics of the possible while never losing sight of the imperative, and working to move the boundaries of the possible,” he added.
Solmonese praised Ohio legislators Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was at the dinner, and Senator Sherrod Brown, who was not. He also paid tribute to the late Senator Howard Metzenbaum.
Solmonese noted that his organization had made a major effort to elect Brown and Strickland.
“In the final weeks of the 2006 campaign, HRC had a record number of people on the ground in Ohio,” said Solmonese.
The Equality Award was presented to U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aldrich.
Aldrich was appointed to service by President Jimmy Carter following a career as an advocate for equality for women and African-Americans.
When the dean of the Cleveland State University law school told Aldrich, the school’s first full time woman law professor, that it couldn’t be racially integrated because there were no black students who wanted to come, Aldrich went on a recruiting mission to traditionally black colleges and integrated the school.
Accepting the award, Aldrich said she looks forward to the day when standing up for equality is so ordinary that it doesn’t need an award.
The Leadership Award was presented to Jane Daroff, a founding member of Cleveland Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and a newly-appointed member of the HRC Board of Directors.
Daroff spoke about the dangers of being silent and not playing to win, whether it’s about rights or a card game, so that others could be happy.