by Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO, GLAAD
Gov. Mike DeWine is on a roll, downhill.
He’s wiping out any good will and press he received for the recent “Vax a Million” campaign that piqued national interest and reportedly encouraged more than three million Ohioans to get vaccinated from COVID-19.
By signing two different measures, Gov. DeWine is negating any notion that he cares about public health, the latest being an inexplicable temporary ban on mandated school vaccines as cases spike among the unvaccinated, and another that allows discrimination against hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ Ohioans seeking healthcare.
Now it’s up to the nearly half-million LGBTQ citizens, and the millions more who know and love them as their family, neighbors, co-workers, friends and classmates, to push for a vaccine of a different kind – against the virus of disinformation and discrimination that Gov. DeWine and the GOP-led legislature are promoting.
The Governor and legislature’s moves are especially baffling given the searing inequities the pandemic revealed.
LGBTQ people, especially queer people of color, suffered disproportionately from the physical, emotional and financial risks of our frontline jobs and our already limited access to healthcare:
- The CDC issued a report detailing the increased risks to LGBTQ people for contracting COVID-19 and for suffering severe symptoms and long-term health complications.
- Research shows 38% of LGBTQ households were not able to get medical care or delayed medical care for a serious issue, compared to 19% of non-LGBTQ households.
- GLAAD research shows COVID-19 response and healthcare as the top two issues for LGBTQ people, with more than a third reporting a serious mental health issue during the pandemic.
- LGBTQ youth are still recovering from the isolation and targeting by state legislatures, including another effort last month in Columbus.
- A shocking 95% of Black LGBTQ households and 70% Latinx LGBTQ households faced at least one major financial hardship.
The Equality Act is a measure of protection toward America’s founding promise of equal treatment under law for every LGBTQ person, as well as every woman, person of color and person of faith.
LGBTQ Americans are not fully protected from discrimination in 29 states, including Ohio, which has a patchwork of local protections, but no statewide coverage. The Equality Act extends civil rights protections to every LGBTQ person no matter where they live, prohibiting discrimination in employment, education, housing, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, and public accommodations, including hospitals and doctors’ offices.
The time for Ohioans to act could not be more urgent. One year after the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers should be protected from discrimination, the blowback has been swift and severe. Transgender youth have been cut off from healthcare and school sports in nine states, further setting them back before they’re ever hired for their first job. How useful are Bostock’s employment protections when trans youth cannot grow up in peace and with the same chances to learn and succeed as their peers?
Familiar anti-LGBTQ groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom are funding and ghostwriting concerted and false attacks against the Equality Act, moving anti-LGBTQ legislation focused on harming trans youth, and advancing bills that allow anti-LGBTQ bias disguised as faith to reject and exclude LGBTQ people.
We need LGBTQ Ohioans and all allies to be visible and to take action like contacting Senators Brown and Portman to urge them to pass the Equality Act to protect their families and ours.
Here’s the bottom line truth. Equal rights under the law should never be a partisan, political issue. Our lives and our basic dignities like seeing a doctor without fear of rejection should not be wedge issues. More than 80 percent of Americans support full equality for LGBTQ people. It’s time for elected officials to catch up, speak up, and do what they know is right.
We are counting on Ohio to lead the way and in the right direction, away from the legislature and the governor’s discriminatory policies and toward equality, liberty and justice for all.
The U.S. Senate must send the Equality Act to President Biden’s desk as soon as possible.
Sarah Kate Ellis is President & CEO of GLAAD, the nation’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization.