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A War Is Raging in Ohio Over LGBT Rights

A War Is Raging in Ohio Over LGBT Rights

A War Is Waging in Ohio Over LGBT Rights

As the Republicans unveil their epically homophobic platform in Cleveland, the Buckeye State finds itself at a crossroads over equality.

As Ohioans, we're sort of used to being the center of the American political universe every four years. It's an oft-repeated maxim that no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio -- and the Buckeye State was crucial in President Barack Obama's victories in 2008 and 2012. As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.

With the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland this week, it's all eyes on Ohio once again. Inside the convention hall, it's been chaotic and divisive, as the Trump campaign has publicly called out the home-state governor, John Kasich, for his refusal to endorse Donald Trump. Delegates have booed, tossed their credentials, and stormed off the floor.

However, there was very little acrimony as the Party of Trump voted on Monday to adopt a "staunchly conservative platform" that "amounts to a rightward lurch even from the party's hard-line platform in 2012," as The New York Times put it. The head of the Log Cabin Republicans said, "There's no way to sugar-coat this ... the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party's 162-year history."

So what exactly is lurking in the GOP platform?

* Even though marriage equality has been the law of the land for more than a year -- thanks in part to the courage and determination of Ohioan Jim Obergefell -- the Republican Party wants to end the freedom to marry.
* The platform endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, which doesn't really protect anyone's constitutional rights -- but it would allow businesses and government employees like Kim Davis to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.
* The GOP platform also endorses parents to utilize "conversion" therapy -- a dangerous and discredited pseudo-science that led to the suicide of Cincinnati teen Leelah Alcorn.
* Finally, the Republican Party's platform condemns policies that allow transgender people to use the restroom that is in alignment with their gender identity, and states that President Obama's measures to allow transgender students access to the correct restrooms at school "is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues."

At the state level, Ohio Republicans are pushing the same kind of laws and policies that are reflected in their party's platform. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has joined a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's guidelines to schools on accommodating transgender students. An Ohio state representative is introducing an anti-trans bathroom bill.

At the local level, however, Democrats are making progress to protect LGBTQ Ohioans. Just last week Cleveland City Council voted unanimously to protect transgender citizens under the city's public accommodations law. Last month Lakewood -- also in Cuyahoga County -- become the 15th city in Ohio with an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance. In December the city of Cincinnati voted to ban conversion therapy.

In the Ohio legislature, Rep. Nickie Antonio is pushing for a statewide nondiscrimination law. This sort of measure has broad support among Ohioans. According to polling by Equality Ohio, about eight in 10 Ohio voters believe laws should be passed banning discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. In fact, many Ohioans assume this is already the law.

For LGBTQ voters, the race for the White House is crucial -- we need a president who believes we are stronger together. But state and local races are just as important as who's at the top of the ticket, maybe even more important. State and local leaders are making decisions that have a real impact on the lives of LGBTQ Ohioans, and having LGBTQ elected officials and allies at the table means that we can continue to expand equality.

The entire Republican Party has shown us where it stands on LGBTQ issues. We should listen to the party -- and turn out to vote this fall. We must stop Republicans from implementing their hate-filled and divisive agenda.

DAVID PEPPER is the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

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