Editor's Note: Kim Welter Is Director of Programs for Equality Ohio. She's taking a leave of absence from Equality Ohio to serve as Campaign Director for ONE Bowling Green.
On August 17, 2009, the Bowling Green City Council passed Ordinances 7905 and 7906, expanding non-discrimination protections to now include: gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, and HIV status among other characteristics. The new Unlawful Discrimination Ordinance extends protection in employment, public accommodation and access to public education. The amended Fair Housing Ordinance adds the new classes to existing City law.
An opposition group led by Gary Thompson, Mary Vollmar and Douglas Freeman, filed petitions to place both ordinances up for a repeal vote in the November 2, 2010 general election. The petitions were certified and enforcement of the ordinances has been held in abeyance pending the November vote.
ONE Bowling Green was created in March of 2010 by members of Equality Bowling Green with the direct goal of preventing the repeal of the ordinances.
Click here to help make Bowling Green, Ohio a fair and welcoming place.
At ONE Bowling Green, we believe in the potential for Bowling Green to be a fair and welcoming city to all. We do not want Bowling Green to be known around the country as the city that voted for discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation, and public education. We do this work for people like Mark and Graham (not their real names).
Years ago, Mark was fired from a teaching position for being gay. Now Mark has a teaching position near Bowling Green, Ohio. A long time Bowling Green resident, Mark, ended up caring for his partner of 28 years who was diagnosed with brain cancer.
For years, Mark used up all his sick days and personal days taking Peter to doctor's appointments, getting Peter to California for special treatments, caring for him when he was partially paralyzed by those treatments, but was completely unable to share with his boss/co-workers this very significant series of events in his life for fear of being fired from another job.
A heterosexual coworker would have received emotional and perhaps tangible help from co-workers, meals, offers to help drive to the doctor's, etc., but not Mark. He had to do it all on his own. Out of sick and personal days due to caring for Peter, how was he to get any time off when Peter died? Can you imagine the worry and stress this added to an already tragic situation?
Less tragic, but no less stressful, is Graham's story. Graham (not his real name) was coming to Bowling Green as a graduate student. Having called around ahead of time, Graham came to Bowling Green to see potential apartments. Graham brought his partner, Seth, along to see the options. Graham was later told, "We don't rent to your kind" (clearly meaning Graham and Seth as a couple) by one of the biggest rental management companies in town. Graham was humiliated and to top it off, neither federal nor Ohio state law provided Graham with any recourse. Graham and Seth finished school and took their education and tax dollars to a friendlier state.
Anecdotal comments gleaned from personal conversations and canvassing in Bowling Green indicate that there is a significant portion of the rental and real estate agents that, although not adverse to taking LGBT money, don't want to do anything to encourage "that kind" of people to come to Bowling Green. They'd prefer to reserve their welcome for the "right kind of people" - and they aren't that afraid to let that be known. As a result, the LGBT community here lives pretty closeted lives or they take their tax dollars elsewhere.
At One Bowling Green, we canvass Tuesday nights, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons to educate the residents of our city because we believe that everyone should be able to live, work and play in Bowling Green without fear of losing their job or housing just because of who they are. Our volunteers believe in their hearts that Bowling Green residents are good people and will vote to support non-discrimination if they understand the issue.
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Often, however, there are far more personal reasons our volunteers join us; Ginny volunteers for her lesbian sister, Marlene volunteers for her friend who was forced to resign from her job when she transitioned and Mark, with Peter gone now, volunteers because he hopes no one else will ever have to share in the pain of his experience.
Can you help people like Mark educate Bowling Green voters about the reality of discrimination today with a donation? Click here to help make Bowling Green, Ohio a fair and welcoming place.