I want to go back to the fundraiser that sparked this conversation with Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern. The event itself is not the issue. I commend Equality Ohio Campaign Fund for actually doing something. To have a high dollar LGBT event for the sitting Governor - branded with the LGBT organizations in Ohio - is a positive step forward.
The problems arise with both the audacity of the language and the misplaced priorities of the organization.
"Making History, Ohio's LGBT Community Unites." What history is being made here? First LGBT fundraiser for the Governor? First time unnamed organizations have come together? Which organizations? Is there a Transgender group involved? A student group? A Republican group? A group representing people of color? Who exactly is unified and making history?
How dare you say that this community is unified at an event which is cost prohibitive to many. Who was the email even sent to? Who did the hard copy invitations go to? I know of at least one openly gay delegate to the Democratic National Convention who didn't get a paper or email invitation. What was the criteria to unity?
More importantly than the name of the event, however, is the convoluted logic used to arrive at the idea that "The Governor's second term could be our best and brightest opportunity to achieve seven tangible goals."
I asked Chairman Redfern since the Republican controlled Senate won't pass EHEA or other legislation that moves the LGBT community closer to recognition, can we expect the Democrats to pick up enough seats in the Ohio Senate in 2010 (or in 2012 after the lines are re-drawn) to allow this type of legislation to move forward.
"We see this as a three or four cycle process," said Redfern, "We think we can add one or two in 2012 when the lines are more fairly drawn, and an additional two seats in 2014 or 2016." In the examination of someone who knows a bit about elections in Ohio, the Democrats can not take control of the Ohio Senate until Governor Strickland leaves office.
Can someone please tell me how, with no contributions to the Republican Party in the last cycle and only 2 Republican co-sponsors in the House on EHEA, Equality Ohio thinks it will pass any of the seven pieces of legislation before Strickland's term ends? Map that out for me, I implore you.
The Democratic Party in Ohio is the only chance of passing any of this legislation, and the Democrats in the House and the Governor are to be commended for their work thus far.
We talked briefly about the Ohio Democratic Party and their commitment to LGBT equality. "Any community is welcomed into the Democratic Party," he said, "and we have demonstrated support for the community with the number of openly gay staff we have in place, the number of openly gay delegates that were elected or appointed that we sent to Denver and the number of gay people on the State Central Committee. Governor Strickland in his first week in office, I believe, signed an Executive Order and has made repeated comments in opposition to the adoption issue, for example."
He went on to say that "It is up to the leadership of the community to advise and encourage the party on these issues," and that many individuals had been doing so for years.
I asked him about his thoughts on what needs to happen to have legislative wins in the future. His advice was succinct. "If you are looking for wins [in the Legislature] lets elect an openly gay legislator." and "It is far more important to go door to door than to attend Lobby Day."
The road to equality in Ohio does not pass through the communities that like to swirl chardonnay while mingling with famous people. This road requires walking, knocking and talking in the small towns and cities that make up Ohio. It is traveled by large coalitions of people - rich and not so - unifying in the real work that needs to be done to change Ohio. It requires leadership that understands how elections are won and how public opinion is changed.
Chairman Redfern has provided a pretty clear map to that road, I hope the LGBT and allied community can find their way there.