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Pride Month in Ohio: Times Have Changed, Inequalities Persist

PHOTO: June is "Pride Month" in Ohio, with events that aim to increase acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and end inequalities. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/morguefile.
PHOTO: June is "Pride Month" in Ohio, with events that aim to increase acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and end inequalities. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/morguefile.
June 20, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - While acceptance of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has grown in Ohio over the years, local activists observing "Pride Month" say their fight continues for equal rights.

Bringing marriage equality to the state is an important issue, said Karla Rothan, executive director of Stonewall Columbus, but she added that it's just one concern that needs attention. She said people in the LGBT community face many other inequities in their daily lives - issues that others face as well.

"There's really more that binds us together than tears us apart," she said. "We have more in common than people would think with a lot of other minorities. It's not just our civil rights that we worry about, but it's about poverty and racism that are the same with our community as they are with the rest of the world."

Rothan said hate-crime laws in Ohio do not cover sexual orientation or gender identification, and Ohio still lacks protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and in employment at jobs other than with the state.

Pride Month is held in June around the globe to mark the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. regarded as the impetus for the LGBT rights movement in the United States.

Rothan said she remembers the first pride march in Columbus in 1981, which drew only about 100 marchers. She said times are much different now, and acceptance of the LGBT community and support for equal rights continues to grow.

"Allies have changed the whole game," she said, "especially with our politicians, of course, our civic leaders, church leaders - all of them saying we need to stick together and we need to make sure that no one has discrimination as part of their life, and we need to free the world of hate."

The Stonewall Columbus pride march will be held Saturday. Pride events have been held throughout the state this month, including a march in Cleveland next week and a first annual 5-kilometer Pride Fun Run and Walk today at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.

Mary Kuhlman/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - OH