Ramping Up DADT Repeal Action in Ohio

We’re literally in the final stretch and even though we’ve been in Ohio for months, it’s now or never in convincing Senator George Voinovich to do the right thing and vote for repeal.  Not only is Congress about to adjourn for the session, but Voinovich is retiring from the Senate and elected office after a storied career as an Ohio public servant.

HRC has three staff on the ground in Ohio for this final push.  While I am coordinating our efforts in Cleveland, Adrian Matanza and Collin Burton are in Columbus.  We’re coordinating phone banks and letter writing activities to generate constituent contacts, as well as planning significant public forums with Ohio veterans, telling their stories about life under DADT and calling on Senator Voinovich to vote for repeal.

I arrived yesterday and immediately got to work.  While I began planning our veterans’ forum at the Cleveland City Hall for this Thursday at noon, Adrian and Collin were setting up a similar event in Columbus at the State Capitol for a Thursday at noon kickoff as well.  Voinovich cut his political teeth as the Mayor here in Cleveland before moving to the Statehouse as Governor and we want to remind him that he represents all Ohioans.

Last night, I was honored to be able to attend and speak with Cleveland PFLAG about our repeal efforts and mobilize them to take action by contacting the senator.  More than 30 people attended the meeting and all of them want Senator Voinovich to vote for repeal.

Voinovich has a reputation as somewhat of an independent thinker by Ohioans – someone who is not afraid to buck his party to do the right thing.  Now he has the opportunity to do just that and vote for the standalone repeal bill (S. 4023) and represent all Ohioans by allowing all our service members to serve with equal dignity and respect.  It’s time for the senator to stand up and make his position known on this bill.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Ohio Veterans Meet with Senator Voinovich’s Staff

For the past two weeks, gay and straight veterans in Ohio have been meeting with Senator Voinovich’s senior district staff to tell their stories of serving under the discriminatory regime of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and to urge the Senator to make ending this discriminatory law a part of his legacy.

The stories they told are ones I’ve heard from veterans across the country—and they are chilling. One man had planned his whole life to serve in the United States Army and proudly enlisted after high school even though he knew he was gay. He believed he could keep his identity hidden and still serve his country. Yet, after years of secrecy, where even his closest friends were kept at arms distance, he turned suicidal. Gratefully he lived to tell his story, but sadly others don’t.

Another young former Marine talked about how proud she was to carry on her family’s tradition of serving in the armed forces. After years of service in a job she loved however, she chose not to reenlist because of the grave emotional and mental strain of always lying. Both of these highly- trained and accomplished veterans are eager to return to uniform when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed.

We learned in these meetings–which built on previous meetings earlier in the year both in Ohio and during the HRC/Servicemembers United Veterans Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.– that Senator Voinovich has come to understand that we are hurting our military readiness by not allowing smart, capable, trained men and women to serve. We believe that he is inclined to vote for repeal, but he still needs to hear from veterans and family members across Ohio to ensure that his vote will indeed be one of which he can be proud—one that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces of the United States of America and will do away with, once and for all, a shameful legacy of discrimination. Please call Senator Voinovich today to tell him your story.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Ohio State University Students Work for DADT Repeal

Every time I get the opportunity to work with university students, I feel renewed hope for our future.  Their passion for social change together with what might be called, ironically ,a blasé attitude towards LGBT people –an utter embrace and welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to the degree that it’s a total nonissue— is so refreshing.

They are also willing to take action when they see injustice, which is what the Ohio State University Democrats did at the conclusion of their recent meeting – making phone calls and writing letters to Senator Voinovich urging him to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  They also joined me at the Veterans’ Day rally at the Ohio Statehouse this week.

These talented, open, affirming and engaged students at OSU are our future, and I am feeling so good about that future. 

Please join the OSU students, the families of active duty service members, our veterans and the many fair-minded citizens of Ohio to take action in the coming weeks to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Please visit our Repeal DADT site and take action NOW.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Calling for Justice on Veterans’ Day at the Ohio State House

In a noontime rally under the soaring stone columns of the Ohio State House in Columbus, a coalition of LGBT groups, including HRC, honored our veterans, and  spoke out for justice for those who are still serving.  Among the crowd were veterans, family members, college students and others—all showing their support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

One of the speakers, a gay veteran, talked about the challenges of serving in silence.  Among those interviewed by the press that attended was the veteran’s  mother, who spoke passionately, even angrily, about how her son had to live a lie while serving his county.

I was there to move people to action by urging them to contact Senator George Voinovich and nearly everyone at the rally made phone calls to his office immediately after the rally. His vote is key to passing the National Defense Authorization Act and thus repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  If you live in Ohio, please call his office today.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Hurts Families in Ohio

I am here in Ohio building renewed support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Last night in Columbus, family members of active duty personnel  and veterans who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America, sat down to write letters to Senator Voinovich, reminding him that this discriminatory law is one that not only hurts gay and lesbian families—preventing partners from learning of their loved one’s well-being or fate in the war zone—but also reminding him that active duty personnel already serve, without incident, alongside gay and lesbian troops from other countries that allow open service such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel.  In those nations, gay and lesbian troops, and their families, are treated with respect and dignity.  The same cannot be said for those who serve this country honorably.

Senator Voinovich, who is retiring at the end of the year, has the choice to act honorably himself by recognizing the fundamental discrimination that this law enforces upon the brave men and women who serve our county in uniform.  He can vote to pass the National Defense Authorization Act when it comes before the Senate that includes language to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

If you are a family member of a veteran or active duty service member from Ohio, please call Senator Vonovich’s district office today to ask him to put aside politics and pass the National Defense Authorization Act with language that repeals Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Click here to find his office near you and make that call.  Time is short.  We need your help.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Pro-Equality Candidates Show Their Support in Ohio

HRC-endorsed candidates Governor Ted Strickland and Congressman Dennis Kucinich stopped by the West Park Democratic Campaign office this week where dedicated HRC volunteers have been hard at work.  We thanked them for their support of our issues and they thanked us for working to get pro-quality candidates elected in Ohio.

We are all working nearly around the clock to make sure every fair-minded voter gets to the polls in Ohio.  The races are close, but together—by knocking on doors and calling voters—we can make the difference between winning and losing.  Please join us by contacting karin.quimby@hrc.org.

Paid for in part by Human Rights Campaign PAC and HRC Ohio Families PAC and authorized by Strickland for Governor and Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Get Out the Vote in Cleveland, Ohio

The following post comes from HRC Regional Field Director Karin Quimby. Karin is just one of 30 HRC staff that will be on the ground in 16 states by Election Day, working with HRC-endorsed candidates and engaging our membership about the upcoming elections:

A few days ago, Collin Burton, the Ohio Democratic Party LGBT Caucus Director, and I were called to Cleveland, Ohio to help mobilize the LGBT community here in support for the pro-equality Democratic ticket.  We’ve now taken over the Rocky River office and our HRC and allied volunteers are staffing the phones and signing people up to canvass on Get Out the Vote weekend.

It’s been great working with Collin in Columbus for the past 6 weeks and exciting to be in Cleveland now for the final push.  We know that every vote counts and if our volunteers get out and knock on doors that we’ll win this crucial election and Ohio will continue the long march to full equality for all its citizens.

To help us answer the call, please go to:  www.fightforohio.com/gotv.  A few hours of your time now can mean a lifetime of equality for those who come after us.

Paid for by Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by the Ohio Democratic Party

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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HRC Supporters Rally with Obama in Ohio

Terry Penrod, member of HRC's Board of Directors, attends the rally at Ohio State

On Sunday evening, HRC supporters joined 35,000 other progressive voters to rally with the president and first lady at Ohio State University in Columbus.

President Obama reminded us that change does not often come quickly, and that the stakes in this election are huge.  We have a choice to keep moving America forward with policies that will move us into a clean energy economy with clean energy jobs, that will maintain higher education affordability, continue tax cuts for middle-class Americans and advance our civil rights.  Or, we will go back to the failed policies of the Bush years.  It’s a pretty simple and a pretty stark choice.

I felt the excitement of 2008 all over again, and President Obama’s message is just what we needed to hear—in clear terms—how we must all get out to vote for fair-minded legislators at the local, state and federal levels so the policies that we all care so much about—like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the Employment Non-discrimination Act—have a chance to pass.

It’s now or never, and I urge all Ohioans to get involved with our HRC election efforts in Ohio by emailing me:  Karin.quimby@hrc.org.

Paid for by Human Rights Campaign PAC and authorized by the Ohio Democratic Party.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

GLEE star coming to Columbus, Ohio for Democratic Senate Candidate Lee Fisher and Get Out the Vote

Columbus is buzzing with the news that Glee star, Matthew Morrison—Will Schuester in the award-winning show—is coming to town to help support the election of Lt. Governor Lee Fisher to the U.S. Senate, and generally to persuade all his fans—and everyone I know loves him and the show—to get out and vote.  The October 9 fundraiser also features our esteemed champion in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Barney Frank.  Purchase Tickets Here.

The Human Rights Campaign is partnering with the Ohio Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus to organize a bar crawl along the Short North gayborhood in Columbus, which will be kicked off by Morrison.  For those in the area—meet at Level Dining Lounge at 8 pm and let the fun begin.  If you want to hook up with us after 8 pm, you can follow our progress that evening on twitter.  To receive our twitter updates, text “follow @OHdemGays” to 40404.

Join us later that evening for a fundraiser at 9 pm with Lee Fisher and Morrison at Union Café in Columbus.  To RSVP for the fundraiser go to: www.actblue.com/page/OCT9Glee

Most importantly, join us as a volunteer to make sure our pro-equality candidates get elected in November.  Sign up at: www.ohiodems.org/lgbt, or contact: karin.quimby@hrc.org.

Paid for by HRC PAC and authorized by Fisher for Ohio and the Ohio Democratic Party.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Ohio Lesbian Festival – Where the Personal is Still Political

There are not many places these days where lesbians can go to enjoy one another’s company and culture in the exclusive presence of other women and lesbians. The Ohio Lesbian Festival, that convenes every summer just outside of Columbus, is one such venue. Now in its 21st year, this festival celebrates music made by and for women, and offers a range of workshops from religion to hula hooping to politics to sex. There are numerous vendors too and one can purchase women’s art and get informed about a range of issues.

I attended the festival to build support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, getting petitions signed that we’re delivering now to Ohio Senators in advance of the vote the Senate will soon take, we anticipate. One of the first women I asked to sign the petition is one of my heroes — Alix Dobkin — the legendary lesbian singer who was performing at the festival. I loved her quip before signing the petition:

Alix Dobkin (R) adds her name to the petition

“Wasn’t one of the good things about being gay in the past the fact that we didn’t have to get married or join the military?”

But of course she recognized that everyone should have the choice and readily signed the petition. So did scores of other women at the festival, many of whom were veterans themselves and thanked me and HRC for doing this work.

I also had the pleasure of spending time at the festival with Sue Doerfer, the Executive Director of Equality Ohio, the statewide organization that is fighting every day for equality legislation. Sue had a table at the Festival and she invited me to join her in her workshop on LGBT Equality in Ohio.

I can’t think of any more enjoyable way to spend a weekend—in the Ohio woods with music, politics and my sisters. If at all possible, I’ll be back next year!

Visiting the Equality Ohio tent

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright