PRIZM News / June 1, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (that’s his wife, newspaper columnist Connie Schultz, in the sunglasses) addresses a Cleveland celebration on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality, June 26, 2015.

Ohio’s U.S. senator vows to fight ‘mean-spirited’ administration on its anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Sherrod Brown wants you to know he has your back.

“That’s what I’m elected for,” says Ohio’s U.S. senator, who’s finishing his second six-year term this year and running for a third.

“I see over half this state is unhappy with what’s going on. In many of them, I see an anxiety. I don’t want to use…” Brown stops himself from using the word fear but then realizes that’s exactly what he sees.

It’s a Friday afternoon in late April, and Brown has just finished speaking to military veterans at an American Legion post on the East Side of Columbus. It’s the day after President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs withdrew over allegations of improper conduct. For almost a month, critics also said Dr. Ronnie Jackson was unqualified for the job.

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Now Brown is talking to Prizm about LGBTQ issues. It’s also the day after Mike Pompeo’s confirmation by the Senate as Trump’s secretary of state. Brown voted against Pompeo, citing a long anti-LGBTQ record that includes close ties to a U.S. hate group that supported Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill.

“No, I’ll say fear,” Brown continues, “from many people about what their government has become. People need somebody to have their back, and that’s what I’m elected for. I’m elected to fight back against this.”

Brown, who was first elected to the Ohio House in 1974 (he was just 21 years old), has been a staple of state politics ever since. He served two terms as Ohio secretary of state in the 1980s and represented Lorain and Cleveland’s western suburbs in Congress from 1993 to 2007. He defeated Republican Mike DeWine in 2006 to become a U.S. senator.

His opponent in the Nov. 6 election is Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.

Their differences on LGBTQ issues are stark. Brown, who is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, has scored 100 percent on HRC’s annual congressional scorecard every year he has served in the Senate. Renacci, who was elected to the U.S. House in 2010, has scored an average of 10 percent over his first three terms.

“Senator Brown has stood shoulder to shoulder with our community, relentlessly championing justice, fairness and equal rights for every American,” HRC President Chad Griffin says. “Senator Brown has proven himself to be … one of our staunchest allies in the United States Senate.”

Renacci, on the other hand, said in a Cincinnati Right to Life survey that he believes the federal, state and local governments should recognize only opposite-sex marriages.

When he received Trump’s endorsement before Ohio’s May 8 primary, Renacci said: “I look forward to fighting alongside the president to advance a conservative agenda.”

Brown says that agenda is downright mean.

“They’re a mean-spirited administration,” he says. “And the Republican majorities are mean-spirited toward poor people, they’re mean-spirited toward immigrants, they’re mean-spirited toward LGBT people, they’re mean-spirited toward people of color.”

“It’s a mean-spirited government.”

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.