Tuesday, November 29

At the Very Center of Ohio, a Small Village Takes a Big Step Toward LGBTQ+ Equality

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On May 19, the the Granville Village Council voted unanimously to approve a non-discrimination resolution that includes protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

Granville, Ohio

Located 35 miles east of Columbus and in almost the dead center of Ohio, Granville’s population numbers around 6000 residents and is home to Denison University. Yet though the village boasts a total area of less than 5 square miles, the resolution was a big step for the small community.

The resolution passed on May 19 by the Granville Village Council.

At the May 19 meeting, representatives from GLSEN Central Ohio, the Ace and Aro Alliance of Central Ohio, the Newark Ohio Pride Coalition, and TransOhio all provided supportive testimony. It is important to note that the resolution does not have the same force of law as an ordinance, but this vote will result in the employment non-discrimination policy being updated and a list of resources provided to individuals who believe they have been the victim of discrimination.

The Buckeye Flame spoke with Laura Mickelson, a member of the Granville Village Council, to find out how the resolution came to pass and what it might lead to in the future for the village.

For people—like me!—who don’t know Granville, sell us on your village.
LM: I grew up here and I came back, so that tells you something. It’s a small town. We’ve got a great little downtown area with a lot of cute shops and great restaurants. We’re a cyclist destination where people travel to from all over to bike the roads and trails. Granville has that Norman Rockwell feeling to the town. But above all, Granville is the type of place where people come together when somebody needs help.

Laura Mickelson, Granville Village Council

How did this resolution come about?
Dorian Rhea Debussy (Associate Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Kenyon College) approached me last year on the Juneteenth celebration on the Square. I had gotten up to say a few words. [Organizers] had invited some local politicians to speak,  and I was the only one from Granville Council who volunteered to do so. After [Debussy] had heard me speak, [Debussy] approached me and said, “Here’s my story. Have you thought about doing this in Granville?” That got the ball rolling. Then COVID hit and we took a break, and recently we were able to get moving again.

From the unanimous decision, it looks like there was a lot of support there on the Council.
I was a little bit surprised, but pleasantly so. We’re a very white community. We do have a tiny bit of diversity. I’m a middle school teacher in a diverse district that’s closeby, so I certainly see the differences. I think Council reflects that. We have the liberals and the conservatives, but I think because this was a resolution and not an ordinance, that helped it pass unanimously. There wasn’t a lot of discussion but that’s definitely not a bad thing!

Talk to us about what the resolution says about where Granville is at this point in time. 
Back in 2017 when there was the whole issue with immigrants and welcoming cities and all the politics around that, Councilmember [Michelle] Lerner proposed a resolution to make Granville a welcoming city. It was kind of controversial, and there was definitely a full house at the meeting. I wasn’t a member of Council at the time, but I was there at the meeting. There were people speaking against it, which is crazy to think. Some people were from the outside, not from the Granville community.

Four years later, it’s really nice to have people only speaking for the resolution. That shows that we’ve made steps in the right direction.

Where might you head next with this?
When I went back and looked at the 2017 resolution, I was dumbfounded that there were people even speaking against it. That resolution was so whitewashed. There was nothing in that resolution that was controversial. This resolution we just passed is not whitewashed. It’s pretty specific, and even though there is no penalty if somebody isn’t following the resolution, it gives people steps they can take in the future.

The Village manager is going to update the employment policy, so that’ll be good. And our lawyer is going to help us both put a statement on the Village website as well as list the resources people can use if they have been discriminated against.

Might you then head the ordinance route?
That’s my goal. I’m an ESL teacher so I’m used to knocking on doors and voicing for my students because a lot of times they are a forgotten population. The way that has always worked for me is for people to get to know me and then start I can start pushing in the right direction. I’m hopeful that approach will be what it takes here.

We’re a small village, so we don’t have a ton of resources. That’s always a concern for certain council members about how we would enforce an ordinance when everybody is already all tapped out. So I think right now it’s all about keeping everyone moving in the right direction and showing them the positives of what can come of this. If we make a statement and are more welcoming, more people will want to come to Granville. To me, it’s a no-brainer. 🔥

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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