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LGBTQ Ohioans Look for Fair Representation

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Thursday, August 26, 2021   

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio leaders are drawing new voting district maps, with help from data from the 2020 census, but advocates for LGBTQ political representation say the census figures lack key information.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are topics not included on the census form.

Kathryn Poe, public policy organizer for Equality Ohio, explained people who live with a same-sex partner are asked to indicate it in the census, but that is it. She argued LGBTQ communities should have adequate representation.

"I do think that it is important to kind of think about ways that we could expand data collection for LGBTQ people," Poe remarked. "There are lots of different gender identities, and LGBTQ people are everywhere in Ohio."

About 5.6% of Americans self-identify as LGBTQ and in younger generations, the number is far higher. Yet fewer than 0.2% of elected officials identify as LGBTQ. There are 31 LGBTQ people elected to office in Ohio, including a state senator, 28 local officials and two judges.

Despite winning just over half of votes across the state, Republicans have a supermajority in both the Ohio House and Senate.

Poe contended supermajorities are bad for all Ohioans, but specifically the LGBTQ community, who she said is the target of unprecedented discrimination.

"Electing lawmakers that are supportive of our community has just never been more central," Poe asserted. "We absolutely need good representation and State offices and in any Congress that are really going to stand up for our community, but also specifically for trans folks."

Poe emphasized fairly drawn lines are crucial to ensuring LGBTQ candidates can run in the future.

"You know, queer people make up not a lot of our state Legislature and not a lot of Congress," Poe observed. "And the more that queer-elected officials are going to be in localities where they feel comfortable running for office, where they think that they can make a big impact."

To achieve equitable representation, more than 28,000 LGBTQ officials would need to be elected across the country.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.


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