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March 9. 2012

Activists from across Ohio gather at summit

Columbus--Participants in the eighth annual Leadership Summit were pumped up by presentations by members of Congress and candidates for Congress, emphasizing the importance of the LGBT constituency within the Democratic Party.

Tim Ryan of Youngstown and Akron, and Mary Jo Kilroy of Columbus talked about the pro-LGBT bills they support and their records. Ryan has no primary. Kilroy does, and her primary opponents in the newly-created 3rd Congressional District are former House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty and State Rep. Ted Celeste. Celeste appeared with his older brother, former Ohio governor Richard Celeste. Beatty reminded voters that she sponsored the first gay-inclusive hate crime bill in Ohio.

Senator Sherrod Brown was represented by his aide Max Blachman. Blachman, who is gay, told the summit that the Ohio Senate race will determine whether Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell will lead the U.S. Senate.

Openly gay candidates Sandra Kurt, running for Summit County Council and Terry Brown, running for Franklin County Recorder, also addressed the group.

The summit, sponsored by Equality Ohio, also featured representatives of small, medium and large cities, talking about pro-LGBT activity in their areas.

Introducing the panel, Equality Ohio’s program director Kim Welter pointed out that some Ohio cities have passed many measures. “We have communities who don’t know what to do next.”

Discussing small cities was Leslye Huff of East Cleveland. Huff talked about that city’s new human rights ordinance.

Medium cities’ concerns were addressed by Rick Incorvati of Springfield.

The Springfield city commission had failed to pass their human rights ordinance the week before.

Gay Cincinnati Councilor Chris Seelbach told of his ordinance to give health benefits to domestic partners of city employees. That ordinance will pass this spring.

Lunch speaker Marc Spindelman, a gay Ohio State Law School professor who has written extensively on marriage equality, spoke about “More than Marriage.”

Spindelman’s said LGBT rights are following two separate tracks in the United States--the “civil rights model” and the “politics of the dispossessed.”

Spindelman described the civil rights model as operating at federal and state levels. It is a legislative agenda that currently includes marriage and other political landmarks.

“Each milestone broadens acceptance of same-sex couples and marriage will follow as a matter of course,” said Spindelman.

Spindleman says the politics of the dispossessed is an agenda of people in the most need and at the most risk of never being given a fair shake.

Spindelman described those folks as including  incarcerated people, homeless youth, those who are HIV positive, the hungry, the trafficked and others who don’t always have the advantage of “respectability.”

“There are no rewards and no headlines for those working for the dispossessed,” Spindelman said, “and meeting their needs often requires the community to air dirty laundry, which risks setting the legislative agenda back.”

“It’s not necessary to run the agendas square and hard against each other,” Spindelman continued. “We need to map ways to run the civil rights agenda and the agenda of the dispossessed together.”

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