- June 30, 2014
Springfield can be easily lost in the shuffle of central Ohio. In between Columbus and Dayton, but not close enough to be a part of either, Springfield is a small college town with growing pains. Upon entering downtown Springfield, I was greeted with a billboard that highlighted workplace discrimination. “You can be fired for being Gay in Springfield, help us change that,” the billboard says. I was surprised. For a small town next to what’s known as the most LGBT friendly city in Ohio in Columbus, it was boisterous, brave and truly commendable. Notably, these billboards tend to go for a softer message, talking about celebrating love or diversity. Although those messages are ones that I cherish, it’s not often that one sees a billboard that gets to the point. And like their billboard, the people of Springfield don’t turn away from adversity.
Tonight, as part of the Americans for Workplace Opportunity campaign, I hosted a community meeting in Springfield to talk about non-discrimination at the federal, state and local level. The people of Springfield got vulnerable and talked with us about their real experiences. There wasn’t a single LGBT person in the room that hadn’t experienced direct workplace discrimination due to being LGBT, some of which were in Springfield itself. One woman is moving to another state to be with her partner because of the harassment she experiences at work and because she doesn’t want to raise her kids in a hostile environment. She laments leaving her home, but she knows that she deserves to be treated like a human.
Before starting this campaign, I knew that workplace discrimination happened, but I hadn’t ever experienced it. But it has been absolutely staggering the amount of people I’ve met in Central Ohio that have experienced, or are even currently experiencing workplace discrimination.
I wasn’t expecting to be so moved in Springfield, but the community there is truly made of strong people that have stood up to fight. People that, in the face of adversity, glare back with billboards around their town. The strength that they showed me tonight is something I’ll cherish. Unfortunately, their congressman, Speaker Boehner, is not yet supportive of the legislation. Hopefully he’ll be hearing from a lot of people are the meeting.