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July 18 , 2010

Welter will lead effort to keep Bowling Green rights laws

Bowling Green--Equality Ohio’s director of programs and outreach, Kim Welter, will lead the campaign to defend Bowling Green’s LGBT equal rights ordinances.

Welter has taken a leave of absence from Equality Ohio and will begin full time with One Bowling Green on July 15. She will return to her Equality Ohio post after the election in November.

One Bowling Green, formerly the Bowling Green Coalition for Justice, is working to defeat an effort to undo two anti-discrimination measures passed last August.

The two laws never took effect because an anti-gay group filed petitions in March halting them until they are approved in a November 2 referendum.

The new ordinances expand existing measures to prohibit discrimination by sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, military status, veteran status, genetic information, HIV status and physical characteristics.

The original laws included race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, creed, ancestry, disability, and family status.

The new measures also created a complaint and penalty process that emphasizes mediated settlements over court action.

One of them covers housing. It passed council unanimously. The second covers public accommodations, education and employment. It passed 6-1.

Welter, who is the former director of Equality Toledo, helped organize the effort that led to the ordinances passing. She chaired the initial meeting, and was a resource to council members and community leaders.

“This is just seeing it through to the end,” Welter said of her decision to run the campaign.

Welter will oversee the canvassing, phone banking, communications and fundraising of the campaign.

One Bowling Green, with the help of a matching grant from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has raised $26,000 since April. The total campaign will be budgeted at $60-65,000.

Welter acknowledged the progress the campaign has made in a short time, including sending volunteers to the NGLTF Power Summit for training.

“I am quite proud of them,” Welter says of the campaign volunteers.

The campaign also has office and training space.

NGLTF and One Bowling Green believe that theirs is the only LGBT issue on the ballot anywhere in the nation in November, as such it is expected to draw national attention.

Welter said Jon Hoadley, the former national Stonewall Democrats director who directed One Kalamazoo in 2009, has offered help and is sharing his campaign plan.

One Kalamazoo successfully defended that city’s similar ordinance from a similar attack. The campaign became known for the deceptive marketing tactic of the anti-gay group trying to repeal the measure.

What they [One Bowling Green] has done here has been impressive,” Welter said. “They have pulled together some good people.

“Now we have to step it up to another level and win it. That’s what we’re poised to do,” Welter said.

For Welter, it doesn’t stop there, though.

She intends to use the precinct-level organizing and voter identification she learns from this campaign and apply it to Equality Ohio and its future plans.

Those plans include the repeal of Ohio’s constitutional marriage ban, passed in 2004.

The people campaigning to repeal the ordinances appear to be working through churches and far right wing groups in the area, but they have no formal campaign committee to date.

Gary Thompson, Mary Vollmar and Douglas Freeman, all of Bowling Green, were the circulators of the petitions.

Vollmar, a financial supporter of the Bowling Green Christian Academy, protested the ordinances during city council meetings.

Freeman is a blogger and web organizer. He writes the blog We By For, which advocates an Ohio constitutional amendment to keep the new health care reforms out of the state and espouses the belief that the U.S. is a Christian nation. It is openly anti-gay.

Thompson owns the apartment property firm Thompson and Thompson Rentals. He contributed to Florida4Marriage.org, the group that passed Florida’s constitutional marriage ban in 2008.

The campaign to retain the ordinances is on the web at www.onebowlinggreen.org.

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