| JM Rayburn
COLUMBUS’ PROSPERITY IS BUILT on its ability to attract the rich, the clever, and the hard-working from all over Ohio, the United States, and the world. Our municipal leaders have recognized this for some time. In January 2011, in an unprecedented collaboration among numerous stakeholders, the mayor and Columbus City Council led the charge to rebrand the city as “Smart and Open.” Officially adopting a progressive attitude where people who stand out will never stand alone. Where diversity isn’t just a state of being, but a state of mind – made real through people, businesses, and neighborhoods every day. Columbus is a city that embraces inclusion, and which prides itself on being a welcoming city. The outcome? We continue to lead the state in both population growth and job creation, attracting the best and brightest from around the world.
While some states are trying to turn back the clock on equal rights, the City of Columbus is focused on promoting equality in our community. In 2011, Columbus City Council, with the support of Mayor Coleman, extended benefits to the domestic partners of City employees. In 2012, again
with support from the Mayor, City Council established a Domestic Partnership Registry whereby loving couples may officially document a relationship of mutual love and care. Since its inception nearly 200 couples have registered.
Not only did City Council pass a tough anti-discrimination law, but just last year leadership proposed comprehensive anti-discrimination language to be included in the Columbus Charter – a change to the city’s constitution that Columbus voters overwhelmingly supported. Under the direction of Mayor Coleman and Council President Andrew Ginther, Columbus has become the only Ohio city with full equal-rights provisions in its city charter. These laws make it illegal for anyone in the City of Columbus to discriminate based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, family or military status, or any other status that is protected by federal, state, or local law or ordinance. To take matters a step further, City Council passed a resolution this past December to express support for marriage equality.
Our city leaders have reached the legal limits of what they can do to empower and protect the LGBT community, but they’ve expanded their support to social services. Through the city’s contracts with various human service agencies, City Council has maintained the longtime support for organizations that offer important programs to the Columbus community such as the Stonewall Community Center and the Kaleidoscope Youth Center After School programs. For years the City of Columbus has depended upon and supported the good work on the AIDS Resource Center (ARC) Ohio in Columbus. I have used these services for the betterment of my health and well-being, as I am sure countless others have. It is important to remember that a healthy community is a strong community.
Economically, the Columbus LGBT community has not only survived under the current leadership—we’ve thrived. The pink dollar market measures the economic muscle of our community. The pink dollar describes the buying power of the LGBT community. Buying power is not the same as wealth. Rather, it shows one critical measure of the growth and size of the highly sought out LGBT consumer market. Using 2011 data from the US Census, GayCensus, and The Media Audit, the pink dollar amount in Columbus is roughly $7.5 billion. That equates to about 8% of the metropolitan economy. It’s quite substantial when compared to other cities in the region and on the coasts.
This strong record of advancing progressive policies demonstrates how much can be accomplished by a city leadership that is dedicated to equality. While we still have more work to do in Ohio to ensure that LGBT Ohioans have full legal equality, I believe we are on the right track. Thank you, Mayor Coleman and Council President Ginther, for lighting the way.