Amid the Supreme Court passively permitting same-sex marriage in various states, activists in Wittenberg and Springfield communities continue to battle locally to, as they describe it, secure LGBT rights and end discrimination.
Last Monday, the United States Supreme Court decided to not hear five appeals in which lower courts had ruled to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. This decision also served as a declination to consider requests from six other states to reinstate their prohibitions, pushing the total to 30 states that allow same-sex marriage.
In Ohio, same-sex marriage has been banned through the state’s constitution since 2004. Though last Monday’s decision did not directly impact Ohio’s ban, it has excited and disappointed Springfield and Wittenberg LGBT activists alike, both in regards to Ohio and the nation at-large.
“It’s exciting,” said Rick Incoravti, Wittenberg English professor and founder and president of Equality Springfield. “To know that this is coming from the highest court in the country is an indication of where our society stands [and] it does put some steam behind the marriage equality movement.”
Nick DeRose, ‘15, vice president of the Wittenberg Gay-Straight Alliance, said he is torn on the Supreme Court’s decision.
“While I cannot speak on behalf of all of GSA, I found it to be a bit of a let down that there was no definite ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage,” DeRose said. “But at the same time, it feels that the country is slowly dragging itself in the direction of marriage equality.”
Beyond same-sex marriage, activists said they are still concerned about other issues pertaining to the LGBT community.
“While marriage equality is an important fight for many, there are other struggles [I] want to highlight,” DeRose explained. “[For] me, highlighting issues like homelessness within the LGBT population, violence against queer individuals — especially trans individuals — racial justice and healthcare is important because these issues are far more damaging in terms of quality of life.”
Incorvati said he is concerned about workplace and community discrimination issues — issues that he said are persistent in Springfield.
“There are no two ways about it: there are gay and lesbian people here in Springfield, and they are not comfortable being here,” Incorvati explained. “They’re afraid to be who they are, they’re at risk of losing their job, [and] that’s because of oppression, [and] we have elected officials advocating for that [oppression].”
Incorvati was referring to the Springfield City Commission’s 3-2 vote against an ordinance amending the city’s human rights codes to include sexual orientation in Feb. 2012. The ordinance would have prohibited employers or property owners from firing or evicting employees or renters because of their sexual orientation. Equality Springfield — the non-profit organization headed by Incorvati that, according to the group’s website, works to raise LGBT awareness and fight for equality — lead the campaign to pass the ordinance.
DeRose also expressed worry about the lack of protection for LGBT people in Springfield’s human rights code, and said he hopes moments like Monday will not take away from other issues that LGBT people still face.
“There is always a fear that marriage equality is seen as the final step, and [that people will think] that the LGBT community will be healed when it happens,” DeRose said. “Unfortunately, there are many other issues, for lack of a better word, to be addressed, and hopefully marriage equality is a foot in the door, and not the closing of one.”
The three Springfield commissioners who voted against the non-discrimination ordinance — Joyce Chilton, Dan Martin, and Kevin O’Neil — failed to return phone calls and emails for comment.