by Kelli #Fitzpatrick
Elyzabeth #Holford is leading a brand-new #marriage equality education campaign, Why Marriage Matters #Ohio, which was announced in September. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this funny, feisty and extremely involved activist. Fusion tracked down Holford to learn more about her work in the LGBT community, and what’s next for Ohio equality.
1. You’re a very busy woman–what are your various jobs and positions with Equality Ohio, Why Marriage Matters Ohio, etc.?
Let’s start with the important things first: I’m the reigning billiards champ in our office, a title our Field Director (Aliya Rahman) has been after for awhile. In addition, I am the Executive Director of Equality Ohio Education Fund. In that role, I serve as Chair for the Board of Directors for Why Marriage Matters Ohio – our statewide marriage campaign. I am also leading our campaign to pass an LGBT inclusive non discrimination law in Ohio.
2. What motivates you to stay such a strong voice in the LGBT community?
I don’t think there’s a choice. I’m motivated by knowing that every minute that LGBT Ohioans are treated unequally, somebody is hurt. A hate crime is happening. Someone is fired for being transgender. A child is bullied. And these behaviors have to stop.
3. What should college students know and understand about WMMO?
We started the Why Marriage Matters Ohio public education campaign because the road to full equality in Ohio includes marriage equality. There’s always a great deal of polling done in Ohio. Some of it is random and other polling is of registered Ohio voters. The statewide polling of registered voters in Ohio consistently shows that we do not have 51% or more of registered Ohio voters ready to cast their vote for marriage equality at the ballot box. This means that we have to do the kind of statewide, focused work to let registered voters know who we are and how this affects our families. It’s about having real conversations that lead to societal change.
4. WMMO is an educational campaign. What do Ohioans need to be educated about?
What the LGBTQ community has learned in the campaigns that have won marriage equality around the country is that when voters understand that this is really about love, commitment and the ability to raise families, then they can find their way to voting with us. So, we are reaching out around the state with the stories of real families, their friends and their allies that live right here in Ohio.
5. What do you hope to achieve with WMMO?
The solid support needed to pass marriage equality in Ohio and to grow Ohio communities into the kind of place in which all Ohioans feel comfortable living.
6. How can college students, either LGBT, GSM or allies, help the cause? How can they help educate the community?
Many students are active all across the state on LGBT issues.
We’re working with students on a number of issues. Many students have volunteered on our campaigns and legislation, but many are more involved in their campus community. Student groups are working with college administrations to increase access for LGBT students, which is important work for full equality. Students interested in getting more involved with Equality Ohio or who want to learn about what they can do on their campus can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. What is the current climate of LGBT awareness in Ohio?
We live in a state where you can be kicked out of your home, fired from your job, or denied service at a restaurant because you are LGBT. Our laws do not reflect or protect us.
Not only do we have a DOMA, but we have a super-DOMA and a constitutional marriage inequality amendment.
Our community is not enumerated in hate crime laws, and our bullying laws do not have specific provisions to protect youth from being bullied even though 80% of bullying in schools in Ohio happens because a student is either gay or is perceived as being gay.
It’s not all bleak, though.
We are making progress. Many cities and counties in Ohio have passed ordinances offering protections. Unfortunately, it’s sort of like a half completed puzzle: some places in Ohio have non-discrimination ordinances for protections against employment discrimination, but not housing discrimination. And some places, visa versa.
We are working to pass fair, equitable statewide laws that will protect and reflect all Ohioans.
8. How does your role with Equality Ohio help you lead WMMO?
Equality Ohio has years of institutional expertise working across Ohio. People recognize Equality Ohio as the voice of the LGBTQ community. That history with and knowledge of Ohio is central to the success of WMMO.
9. Where do you see Ohio in 10 years in regard to LGBT rights?
With basic legal rights in place, Equality Ohio will be working to foster inclusive communities across the state. This work is likely to involve doing work to create positive spaces for both our youth and our aging populations.
10. How does the time period during which you came out differ from today?
In some ways, it is vastly different. Many workplaces and social outlets are safer and more supportive of the LGBTQ community. At the same time, so little has changed. The LGBTQ community has no statewide nondiscrimination law in place; we are not enumerated in the antibullying or hate crimes legislation; and, when an individual transitions, there is no option to change the gender marker on a birth certificate. We have a marriage inequality amendment and a super-DOMA. In short, we still have much work to do to make Ohio the kind of state where we all feel at home.