Prizm News / August 10, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

 

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the staff behind diversity efforts in his office. (Photo by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, via Facebook)

(Publisher’s Note: Prizm Editor Bob Vitale was part of a panel that discussed diversity at Thursday’s Diversity in Business event hosted by Columbus Business First. He asked DeWine to comment on LGBTQ issues after the event and wrote this story.)

Mike DeWine wants to keep LGBTQ discrimination legal, end marriage rights and pick restrooms for trans kids. He was just honored for his commitment to diversity.

 

By Bob Vitale 

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Mike DeWine charged up onto the stage Thursday to accept a diversity award on behalf of employees in his state office, but the Republican candidate for governor charged out of a Columbus hotel ballroom as soon as he was asked to talk about issues facing LGBTQ Ohioans.

Asked by Prizm after an awards luncheon if he could answer a few questions about LGBTQ issues, the smile that had been on DeWine’s face vanished. He stood silent for a few seconds and answered: “We’re not doing interviews today.”

Told that it was just a few questions, not a formal interview request, DeWine scurried away.

“We’re not doing interviews today,” he repeated.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierny told Prizm this morning that DeWine needed to get to a 2 p.m. news conference, “which is why he could not do interviews yesterday.” A photo posted on social media, though, shows he stopped to pose for a photo with nine other people and the award he accepted on their behalf.

More than a few people in attendance were surprised to see Ohio’s second-term attorney general show up Thursday to accept a Diversity in Business Award from Columbus Business First. The newspaper honored 18 individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies for specific programs or ongoing work to make Central Ohio more inclusive.

“In a room full of organizations and professionals working hard to build more diverse and inclusive spaces, DeWine stuck out like a sore thumb,” said Siobhan Boyd-Nelson, development director for Equality Ohio, who attended with two colleagues from the statewide LGBTQ civil-rights group.

The event itself was LGBTQ-inclusive. Prizm was represented on a panel that discussed diversity issues. Equality Ohio was among organizations represented at a pre-luncheon information fair. Equality Ohio shared info focused on Ohio Business Competes, its campaign to gather business support for efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Ohio’s nondiscrimination laws.

DeWine opposes the Ohio Fairness Act, which would make it illegal for employers to fire workers, for landlords to evict tenants or for businesses to turn away customers because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

His office does observe a 2011 executive order from Gov. John Kasich against discrimination inside state government based on employees’ and job applicants’ sexual orientation. But neither DeWine’s policy nor Kasich’s order addresses gender identity or expression.

The honored diversity and inclusion efforts at the attorney general’s office include an LGBT employee network group, but as an elected official and candidate for governor, DeWine has opposed all major civil-rights initiatives for LGBTQ Ohioans and LGBTQ Americans.

As Ohio’s attorney general, he fought a gay widower from Cincinnati all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the man’s effort have his late husband’s death certificate list him as married. The court ruled in June 2015 against DeWine and in favor of nationwide marriage equality.

DeWine also was among 10 Republican attorneys general who sued the Obama administration in 2016 over a U.S. Department of Education directive that transgender children be allowed to use school restrooms matching their gender identity.

In a January survey of candidates for Ohio governor by The Columbus Dispatch, DeWine again listed himself as opposed to marriage equality, to expanded nondiscrimination laws and to the idea of a transgender girl using a girls’ restroom at her elementary school.

Business First Editor-in-Chief Doug Buchanan said judges didn’t take DeWine’s policies and positions on LGBTQ issues into consideration when selecting his office as a Diversity in Business Award winner. That’s because the award was given for the internal diversity efforts of his agency, he said.

The office nominated itself, apparently. Unidentified “nominator’s comments” printed by Business First include:

“An often-repeated—and indeed, trademarked—quote by diversity consultant and cultural innovator Verna Myers states, ‘Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.’ At the Ohio attorney general’s office, we strive to recruit employees who represent the diversity of the constituents we serve and then to retain them by ‘asking them to dance,’ through engagement in a work culture that is truly inclusive.”

Tierny said the state agency has a deputy director of diversity, inclusion and employee development who “purposefully takes a broad approach” in the efforts.

“Our diversity and inclusion initiative is much more than a single position,” Tierny said. “We recognize diversity in our approach to hiring, diversity and inclusion is a focus in…new employee orientation, and we hold events that engage all staff multiple times each week. Our plan is a grassroots initiative, and we garnered input from all of our sections and regional offices. To be effective, initiatives must be both spearheaded by the leader and supported throughout the organization. We have both, thus the recognition of our efforts by Columbus Business First.”  

DeWine wasted little time taking credit for the award on social media Thursday.

‪Today, I was honored to receive the Outstanding Diverse Organization Award from Columbus Business First. This 2018…

Posted by Mike DeWine on Thursday, August 9, 2018

 

\“Today, I was honored to receive the Outstanding Diverse Organization Award from Columbus Business First,” he posted on his personal Facebook.

He posted the same comments and photos on his personal and government Twitter accounts as well.

The Ohio Democratic Party said DeWine has nothing to brag about.

“Mike DeWine wants to end marriage equality, police what bathrooms people use and eliminate women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies. So it’s not surprising that he didn’t want to answer questions about his record on diversity,” spokesperson Robyn Patterson said.

Richard Cordray, the Democratic nominee for governor, told Prizm earlier this year that he supports expanding Ohio’s nondiscrimination laws.

“As governor, I would gladly sign legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression,” Cordray said. “Other states have led on these issues and I firmly believe that Ohio must provide an inclusive, welcoming and tolerant environment that is free of harassment and discrimination for everyone.”

bobvitale@prizmnews.com

 

 

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he 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. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com