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Reflecting on Pride and Other Attempts to Restrict Ohioans' Rights

By Nickie J. Antonio
June 24, 2024
The Democratic Standard

As Pride Month comes to an end with parades, gatherings, and events honoring the diversity and strength of the LGBTQ+ community, it is sobering to recognize the alarming threats to our rights through legislation passed or the number being introduced in Columbus by Republican lawmakers.
Ohio has quickly become perceived as one of the most hostile states in the nation for members of the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, a recent analysis by SafeHome.org ranked our state as the fourth most unsafe for LGBTQ+ individuals in the country. But the same lawmakers pushing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation like banning gender-affirming care or requiring teachers to out students to their parents are also working to attack the rights of Ohioans more broadly. So, as we reflect on Pride Month, let us also recognize the myriad of efforts being made in the Statehouse to restrict Ohioans’ rights.
Ohio’s gerrymandered maps have led to the implementation of extreme policies, by ensuring the composition of Ohio’s legislature is artificially out of balance and does not accurately represent its population. The supermajority passes laws supported by a small minority of Ohioans, everything from allowing guns everywhere in public to funneling taxpayer dollars away from our public schools to private schools with minimal oversight. While the constitutionality of some of these egregious laws has been challenged, an equally partisan state Supreme Court has upheld the vast majority of them.
The voter ID law changes passed at the end of 2022 have made it much more difficult for citizens to exercise their right to vote. These laws disproportionately impact marginalized communities, including people of color, students and seniors, voters with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged individuals. This, along with the recent legislation making it more difficult for individuals to donate to candidates and campaigns, are tactics designed to suppress the will of the people. They are evidence of the Ohio GOP’s fixation on undermining the ability of everyday Ohioans to effect change and hold their government accountable.
Our public education system is also under attack through the expansion of Ohio’s voucher program, threatening our children’s success and our state's future. The gradual defunding of our public schools is a project almost 30 years in the making, and the legislature continues to siphon funds for charter schools at the expense of those who cannot or do not want to attend these unregulated institutions. One such school was shut down after taking more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars – which school is next?
The struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community are emblematic of these broader issues damaging our state. Discrimination and inequality, whether based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or economic status, weaken the fabric of our society. When one group’s rights are attacked, it endangers the rights of us all.
In part to counter these ongoing injustices, I have once again introduced the Ohio Fairness Act. This critical piece of legislation is modeled after the 2020 Supreme Court decision, Bostock v. Clayton County. This bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and accessing goods and services. It would also add mediation as an informal remedy to use prior to formal litigation. The Ohio Fairness Act is not just about protecting LGBTQ+ individuals; it opens the door to economic growth by demonstrating that Ohio is creating an inclusive environment where everyone can be their authentic selves.
This Pride Month, Democrats continued fighting for a fairer, more inclusive Ohio by advocating for fair districting, opposing voter suppression tactics, supporting accessible ballot initiatives, and ensuring fully funded public education. The safety and rights of our LGBTQ+ community are non-negotiable, and so are the rights of every Ohioan to participate fully in our democracy.
A state where equality, justice, and opportunity are not just ideals but realities for everyone is possible, so as we look back on this Pride Month, remember that the fight for equality is far from over. We must continue working to protect and expand the rights of all Ohioans, ensuring that our state is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.