Prizm News / October 1, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in our first year of publishing Prizm, it’s this: When life gives you Mike Pence, throw an outdoor dance party.


By Bob Vitale

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“Our mission—our promise—is to report on and reflect all parts of LGBTQ life and culture,” we said last October in our first issue of Prizm. “Our community lives with great joy but endures much hardship. We’re not naïve about that. We will cover it all.”

In our first year, we’ve covered it all, online and in print.

But we still find ourselves, like we did in October 2017, looking for those nuggets of information that give us hope about our futures and those of our community’s youngest members.

We love to hear about cities and schools and public officials doing good by LGBTQ people. We love to hear about LGBTQ people standing up, speaking out, helping our community and helping the world.

We love to hear about LGBTQ people simply being who they are.

We started Prizm off on a hopeful note in October 2017 by offering “100 Reasons for Hope,” a collection of news items from across Ohio that were reasons for optimism in these times that seem so harsh and angry.

As we start our second year, we all still need a bit of hope.

So we offer 100 reasons more.


Chris and Jessica Cicchinelli wanted to help Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center help other transgender children the way it helped their daughter. In January, the Pure Romance CEO and his wife pledged $2 million and announced the creation of the Living With Change Foundation to help kids and families with medical care, help the hospital reduce its backlog of patients and help everyone better understand gender identity.


In the hometown of Leelah Alcorn, the trans teen who killed herself in 2014 and issued a plea to the rest of us to “fix society,” the young people who are part of the Living With Change Foundation, were honored as grand marshals of the Cincinnati Pride parade in June.


Toledo’s Holiday With Heart Gayla celebrated its 40th anniversary as a holiday tradition for the LGBTQ community in Northwest Ohio in 2017. This year, on Sunday, Dec. 2, the event will celebrate 20 years as a fundraiser for queer organizations in and around Toledo. One of its newest beneficiaries is a growing LGBTQ scholarship fund at the University of Toledo.



At this time last year, more than 200 Ohio businesses had publicly pledged their support for legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the state’s nondiscrimination laws.

That number, according to Ohio Business Competes, has since doubled to 422 small businesses, corporations, colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations. Supporters include Honda of America, LexisNexis, Huntington Bancshares, Ohio State University, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio University.

Jim Obergefell (right) with attorney Al Gerhardstein in the 2015 Cincinnati Pride parade.


Although Attorney General Mike DeWine fought Jim Obergefell every step of the way toward nationwide marriage equality, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission will honor the Sandusky native on Oct. 4 with induction into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodge


When North Carolina adopted laws in 2016 that rescinded local nondiscrimination ordinances and dictated the public restrooms used by transgender people, the NCAA began requiring cities applying to host its college championships to prove they’re welcoming to all. It’s a reason Columbus, which bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, was chosen to host the 2018 Women’s Basketball Final Four.


Wyatt Pertuset (right) is congratulated by a teammate after his touchdown against Mount St. Joseph. ESPN host Bob Ley mentioned the milestone on his “Outside the Lines” program. 


Capital University Football Coach Chad Rogosheske knows what people expect from male athletes when it comes to discussions of sexual orientation. But that’s not the reaction he has seen from teammates of Wyatt Pertuset, one of just a few openly gay U.S. college football players.

“Maybe that’s a positive reflection on where we’re at as male athletes in this day and age,” Rogosheske said in our November 2017 profile of Pertuset, who came out as gay when he was as a high school junior in Richwood, a Union County village about 50 miles northwest of Columbus.

And one more bit of good news: Pertuset has gotten over the injury that sidelined him last season. He’s Capital’s punter and a starting wide receiver this fall, and during the Crusaders’ game vs. Mount St. Joseph on Sept. 1 he scored the first touchdown by an openly gay player in college football history.


In April, South Eucid became the latest city in Ohio to adopt an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. The vote was unanimous by its City Council.





Equality Ohio doesn’t include Springfield in its list of cities that ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination because it considers a religious exemption too broad. But LGBTQ residents and allies still cheered when city leaders approved a new law in January. “People of good will of various faiths can disagree about this issue,” said Mayor Warren Copeland, who supported the measure. “For some of the rest of us, it’s a faith issue, too.”



Ours is a community where being who you are sometimes isn’t welcomed by those you call family. It’s a reason the Dayton LGBT Center hosts an annual community Thanksgiving dinner every November. This year’s takes place on Saturday, Nov. 17.


Akron joined Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton on the list of Ohio cities receiving the highest possible ratings in Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index. The annual report looks at local governments policies and programs for LGBTQ communities.

Commander Dierdre Jones (center) is the Cleveland Police Division’s new LGBTQ community liaison.(Photo from Dierdre Jones via LinkedIn)


“We definitely have some work to do,” openly gay City Council member Kerry McCormack told us in January about Cleveland’s mediocre HRC score. City officials got to work quickly. In the past few months, Mayor Frank Jackson has appointed LGBTQ liaisons in his office and in the Division of Police.


In the May 8 Democratic gubernatorial primary, the three leading candidates all supported pro-LGBTQ measures. Richard Cordray, the primary winner, and fellow candidates Dennis Kucinich and Joe Schiavoni told Prizm they support expanding Ohio’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws, want to ban so-called “conversion therapy” against LGBTQ children, and would fight any effort to legislate the restrooms used by transgender peopl

Richard Cordray and running mate Betty Sutton.


“Everybody deserves to be treated fairly,” Cordray told us when we sat down for a profile we ran in June. “That’s a very deep strain in my outlook on life. It makes me angry, and I have a very strong emotional reaction when I see people picking on each other, which is what a lot of this is. It’s sort of building me up by knocking you down.”


A year-long 2017 survey by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute found that 69 percent of Ohioans agree with Cordray and want state law to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.


The same report found that 61 percent of Ohioans support marriage equality. That’s the exact same percentage who voted to outlaw same-sex marriage in the state in 2004.


A large majority of Ohioans doesn’t buy the religious-freedom argument by conservatives in the Ohio General Assembly who oppose LGBTQ civil rights. The survey found 60 percent reject religious exemptions to the nondiscrimination laws they support.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio is an equality voter.


As part of its biggest-ever grassroots political effort, the Human Rights Campaign has classified more than 1.5 million Ohioans as “equality voters,” meaning they’re either members of the LGBTQ community or strongly supportive of pro-LGBTQ measures.


There are 11 LGBT candidates on Ohio’s Nov. 6 election ballots. And the slate is truly L (two), G (seven), B (two) and T (one).

Lis Kenneth Regula was on hand to talk with voters at the Streetsboro Family Days Festival in July. (Photo by the Regula campaign via Facebook)


Lis Kenneth Regula, a University of Akron biology professor who’s running this year for Portage County auditor, is the first transgender Ohioan to run for political office.


In 2017 local elections, Ohioans chose 17 of their gay and lesbian neighbors to serve on city and village councils, township board and school boards. Beyond the big cities of Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Akron, gay and lesbian candidates were elected to the village councils in Minerva Park (population 1,312) and Golf Manor (population 3,579), as a trustee of Pickaway County’s Scioto Township, and to city councils in the Cleveland suburbs of Olmsted Falls and University Heights.

Tamaya Dennard


Tamaya Dennard raised her right hand in January to take the oath as a

member of the Cincinnati City Council. She clutched a red folding chair in her left hand, a reminder of a favorite quote from the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Dennard is the first out lesbian and first out LGBTQ person of color elected to local office in Cincinnati.



Dennard’s election means that for the first time ever, two openly gay Cincinnatians serve on the nine-member City Council. Chris Seelbach, who in 2011 was the first openly gay person elected to local office, won a third term in November.


Newark, the 15th biggest city in Ohio, has two openly gay City Council members as well. Jeremy Blake was elected to a second term in 2017, while Sean Fennell was elected to his first term.

(Photo by Karen Edwards)


Newark hosted its first Pride on June 9.


Sandusky celebrated its first Pride on June 23 within sight of Lake Erie. The review from one participant: “Hands down, the most beautiful, love-filled event Sandusky has had. Can’t wait for the return next year!”


Portsmouth, at the opposite end of Ohio, celebrated its first Pride on June 30 a few blocks from the Ohio River.


Men’s professional sports are taking steps to erase old stereotypes.

LeBron James wore rainbow laces, Nina West was honored at center court, and HRC chapters in Cleveland and Columbus got a portion of ticket sales when the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted their first LGBTQ Pride Night in March.

The Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus sang the National Anthem and kids from Kaleidoscope Youth Center watched from a luxury box for the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Pride Night in February. And the Cincinnati Reds gave away rainbow Reds baseball caps for their Pride Night in June.


Miss Major Griffin Gracy, a veteran of the Stonewall uprising and a hero of the movement for trans liberation, was the guest of honor on June 16 at the first Columbus Community Pride.


(Prizm photo by Staley Munroe)


Instead of picketing and protesting a visit to Columbus on the opening day of Columbus Pride, a group of gay men organized an outdoor dance party, where else? On Gay Street. The Mike Pence Dance Party drew international media attention.


A 9-year-old Northeast Ohio girl who talked about the anti-transgender bullies in her life and then reminded lawmakers of our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness had people in tears at an Ohio House hearing in January for a statewide nondiscrimination bill.

“Please protect my happiness,” she said.


Cuyahoga County became the first county in Ohio to ban discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The County Council voted, 8-3, on a measure Sept. 25.



Ten of Ohio’s 14 public universities—the University of Akron, Bowling Green State University, the University of Cincinnati, Cleveland State, Kent State, Miami University, Ohio State, Ohio University, the University of Toledo and Wright State—now offer on-campus housing options beyond traditional gender-based options. It means more comfortable arrangements for LGBTQ students.


At Ohio State, students who live on campus can indicate if they’d prefer an LGBTQ roommate. They also can request a roommate who identifies as an ally of the LGBTQ community.


A new charter school in Lakewood opened in August with a mission of being intentionally and explicitly LGBTQ-affirming. The high school is the first of its kind in the Cleveland area.


The Arts & College Preparatory Academy, an LGBTQ-affirming charter school in Columbus, plans to break ground this month for an expansion that will add 7th- and 8th-grade classes to its existing high school.


The Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ Americans hasn’t altered the Department of Veterans Affairs’ commitment to serving our community’s military veterans. Five Ohio VA facilities—in Chillicothe, Cincinnati Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton— received LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader status with the highest scores possible on HRC’s 2018 Healthcare Equality Index. That means their treatment is comprehensive, their policies are inclusive and their training includes cultural competency for LGBTQ patients.


In addition to the VA facilities, 19 Ohio health networks, hospitals and agencies were designated as LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders: Summa Health Akron and Barberton campuses; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region; Cleveland Clinic Main Campus, Euclid Hospital, Fairview Hospital, Hillcrest Hospital, Lutheran Hospital, Marymount Hospital, Medina Hospital, MetroHealth Medical Center and South Pointe Hospital; Columbus Public Health, Equitas Health, OSU’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and OSU’s Wexner Medical Center; and the University of Toledo Medical Center.


The list of Ohio- based companies with perfect scores as LGBTQ-friendly employers continues to grow. Seventeen received top marks on the HRC’s latest Corporate Equality Index: Abercrombie & Fitch, American Electric Power, Cardinal Health Inc., Convergys Corp., Eaton Corp., the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; Fifth Third Bancorp, Frost Brown Todd, Huntington Bancshares, Keycorp, L Brands, Macy’s, Nationwide, Owens Corning, Procter & Gamble, Squire Patton Boggs, Thompson Hine.


When the Public Religion Research Institute released those surveys in May showing that Ohioans—and majorities in every state—support marriage equality and LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, research director Dan Cox took note of the significance of his group’s findings.

“The country has reached a milestone moment in the debate over LGBT rights,” he said, offering up perhaps the biggest season for hope these days.

“At a time when Americans are more divided than ever, the sea change in support for LGBT rights that now crosses lines of race, ethnicity, religion and geography means that LGBT rights are becoming one of the few areas of public agreement.”

Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. Send him your reasons for hope at

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.