Prizm News / July 1, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin says HRC Rising will work to get 1.5 million equality-minded Ohio voters to the polls in November. (Prizm photo by Staley Munroe. Top photo courtesy of HRC)

A six-state effort that includes Ohio will intensify efforts to get equality-minded voters to the polls in November.

By Bob Vitale

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin was as bummed out as most of you were on the night of Nov. 8, 2016.

But as Ohio and other swing states lined up behind Donald Trump in the presidential election, he found a glimmer of hope in the vote totals rolling in from North Carolina. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed into law an anti-transgender bathroom bill that also wiped out all local LGBTQ civil rights protections, was headed for defeat.

“It was a watershed moment that didn’t get quite the attention that it deserves given what happened with the national election,” Griffin says. “It was the first time in the history of our movement that we ousted a statewide elected official because they attacked our community.”

HRC spent more than $1 million in North Carolina and hosted 260 get-out-the-vote in Charlotte and Raleigh. Nearly six in 10 voters said the bathroom bill was the issue that decided their vote; Democrat Roy Cooper defeated McCrory, and a pro-equality candidate was elected as the state’s new attorney general.

And here’s another silver lining from 2016: Lessons learned from the victory in North Carolina are being applied in Ohio this year as part of a six-state effort designed to elect pro-equality candidates to state and federal office.

HRC already has endorsed Democrats Richard Cordray for governor and Steve Dettelbach for Ohio attorney general, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for re-election, and Aftab Pureval of Cincinnati and Rick Neal of Columbus for the U.S. House. Its backing helped openly gay state Rep. Nickie Antonio win a Democratic primary race for the Ohio Senate.

The nationwide effort called HRC Rising—it’s starting in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada—will deploy at least 45 new full-time staff members in what the organization is calling the largest grassroots deployment in its history.

“Our organization has been on the defensive like everyone else, fighting back and pushing back and resisting,” Griffin says. “Now we’re really turning that resistance into action and aggressively organizing and mobilizing in key states around the country.”

They’ll have clear choices in the Nov. 6 election, Griffin says. Cordray supports outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ Ohioans, vows to end a state policy that forbids transgender Ohioans from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates and backed marriage equality at least five years before the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision making it legal nationwide.

Republican nominee Mike DeWine, meanwhile, fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep Ohio’s restrictive marriage law in place. He told a Cincinnati anti-abortion group in March that he still wants marriage restricted to opposite-sex couples only both in Ohio and nationwide.

“Mike DeWine has literally spent a career undermining our rights, doing everything he can in each office he has held to try to ensure the state or the country can continue to discriminate against LGBTQ people,” Griffin says.

But as now-former Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina knows, that position isn’t good for job security nowadays.

“If you go back just 10 years, folks were attacking us in order to win elections,” Griffin says. “Today, the tide has turned. If you attack our community, you do so at your own peril.”
Twitter: @Bob_Vitale