By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Findlay’s LGBTQ+ Community Council is working to identify businesses, organizations and churches that support or affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.
A directory of supportive businesses and other entities is being compiled, and they will be provided with window decals they can use to visibly show support.
Ohio does not have statewide protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations, though a bill under consideration would add those protections.
House Bill 160 would create the Ohio Fairness Act, which would expand “existing prohibitions against various unlawful discriminatory practices to apply to discriminatory practices on the basis of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity or expression,’” according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
Similar legislation has been proposed before, but this is the first time the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is supporting it.
Some Ohio cities have passed anti-discrimination laws covering those categories.
“We’re not quite there in Findlay, to be working on the legal equality stuff. So we’re working on the ‘lived equality,’ which is the aspect of ‘Yeah, you can change all the laws, but what’s the point of changing the law if you can’t change the mindset of the people, or help to educate a population?’” said Jasmin Bradley, a Findlay resident involved in the LGBTQ+ Community Council.
The LGBTQ+ Community Council is “a collaboration of the organizations in town that are striving to provide service and support for the LGBTQ+ community,” she said.
They include Open Air, a Focus on Friends support group; United, the University of Findlay’s gay-straight alliance; and Spectrum of Findlay, whose mission is to hold events and activities that “build a safe and supportive place for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” according to its website.
“So really that’s what the ‘lived equality’ piece is. What can we do in the community of Findlay to make living here as an LGBTQ+ individual better?” said Bradley, who is also a visiting professor of biology at UF.
A directory of supportive businesses and other entities will be one step, said Bradley and Jacob King, who finished classes in December and was the president of the University of Findlay’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter.
The PRSSA chapter is like a student-run public relations firm, King said, and contributed branding, materials and messaging to be used when approaching businesses about getting listed in the directory.
The directory will mean that “as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you can say like, ‘Oh, I need a service, I’m going to spend some money here, I want to spend it in an establishment that’s going to support me and my existence’ and so therefore we help to kind of create an economy that supports diversity and equality,” Bradley said.
Similarly, LGBTQ+ people will be able to identify supportive nonprofits. Sometimes they “might feel apprehensive about approaching a nonprofit for support, specifically if that nonprofit is tied to a church,” Bradley said.
The public display of support should help with “retention,” King said, as LGBTQ+ people see it and say, “I want to devote my skills or come and help a community like this thrive, that I see as openly embracive to myself.”
Also, “people don’t want to be spending money at businesses” if their values “don’t align with the values of that business,” Bradley said.
The LGBTQ+ Community Council has identified about 100 businesses and organizations “that we either know will provide that support, or will be open to the conversation about that support,” Bradley said.
Spectrum’s website, www.spectrumoffindlaylgbt.org, will host the directory.
Postcards will be sent to those businesses and organizations this week. Those that want to be in the directory will then receive additional materials, including a window decal they can use to visibly show support.
The shape of Ohio is outlined in rainbow colors on the decal, with Findlay’s location marked with a star and “FINDLAY” printed under the star.
“Immediately you’re going to see that decal and know, ‘This business supports my values. I feel comfortable spending money here,’” Bradley said.
While Findlay is “a conservative community, I would hope everyone is on board with ‘lived equality,’” King said. “This isn’t pushing just one agenda or just one thing down people’s throats.
It’s about promoting fairness for everyone, which I would hope everyone could be on board with.”
If someone isn’t on board, Bradley said, she would prefer they “come and approach us and have a civil discussion” rather than putting “a nasty comment online.”