Galion, Ohio becomes latest municipality to pass LGBTQ+ protections

“This speaks to who we are. People can come here and be safe and comfortable and live the life that they want.”

The city council of Galion, Ohio voted 5-1 on Tuesday evening to update the city’s housing anti-discrimination ordinance with protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and passed a new ordinance to extend those protections to public accommodations and employment.

Council approved the first reading of the ordinances during its August meeting, with two council members, Richard “Aaron” Ivy and Mark Triplett, abstaining from voting without comment.

Councilperson Kara Ault, who spearheaded the initiative with support of the city law director and Equality Ohio, said she spoke with her colleagues after that first vote in order to talk through their concerns. In the final reading on Tuesday, those who voted to pass the ordinances were Ault, Ivy, Tammy Sinclair-Erlsten, Mike Richart and Thomas Fellner.

Ken Bodkins was absent, and Triplett voted no.

When Ault was appointed to city council in December, her first goal was to find the support needed for council to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ+ individuals who live and work in Galion. The central Ohio city boasts around 10,000 residents and sits at the intersection of Crawford, Morrow and Richland counties, just east of Mansfield.

Supporters of the new ordinance after the Tuesday’s vote (photo courtesy of Gwen Stembridge)

For Ault, it seemed like a no-brainer. If the city administration wanted to attract new residents and Galion natives back to the city, they would have to demonstrate an inclusiveness for all types of people.

With its passage, Galion joined a growing list of 34 localities in Ohio that have passed non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBTQ+ individuals.

Galion’s first ordinance updates the city’s existing housing non-discrimination ordinance for the first time in over 20 years, adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the list of protected classes. The second ordinance bans discrimination against protected classes in employment and public accommodations for the first time in the city.

Ault said she thought she could find the support to pass the ordinances without much fanfare, but then experienced some pushback in the Laws, Ordinances, Zoning and Permits Committee. After discussion over two meetings, the committee voted unanimously to send the ordinances to the full council, despite opposition from at-large member Triplett.

In a video of the August committee meeting posted to Facebook, Triplett argued that he believed “God created man and woman” and said he did not understand gender. Ault responded by asking whether Triplett believed people should be discriminated against, regardless of his personal beliefs, and Triplett eventually voted to send the ordinances to council.

Kara Ault

Economic development has been a focus of municipal efforts in Galion.  City officials have approved business incentives and the “Come Back to Galion” scholarship, offering college graduates up to $5,000 per year in assistance to pay back student loans if they returned to their home city.

Ault said she believes these new ordinances will signal to LGBTQ+ individuals that they are welcome in Galion and will help boost economic progress.

An out lesbian, Ault and her wife own a home in Galion. She said she has encountered much acceptance by the local community and credits her drive to help pass these LGBTQ+ protections to her desire to let other members of the LGBTQ+ community know that they too are welcome in Galion.

“This speaks to who we are. People can come here and be safe and comfortable and live the life that they want,” Ault said.

Ignite Action:

  • Visit Equality Ohio’s Municipal Map to find out if your community is one of the 34 municipalities with LGBTQ+ protections.  If not, contact your local city government to get these conversations started!

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