| ANDREW JOHNSON
IN HIS OWN WORDS, Lance Demaline isn’t sure what he wants for his future. Though the 29-year-old will soon earn his MBA from Ohio University, he doesn’t have a clear path on what he wants to do with his life. What he is certain about is his work with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and pushing toward LGBTQ equality.
Demaline’s involvement with the HRC Columbus started in 2010 when he and his partner, Mark Blair, attended the organization’s annual gala.“It was the first time that I realized there was an organization solely dedicated to promoting and advancing equality,” he said. “When I went to the dinner, everything clicked. I knew injustices occurred before that, but the dinner gave me the opportunity to engage and do something about it. Ever since then, I’m been fighting tirelessly.”
Given that he enjoys entertaining and has a passion for fundraising, he joined the Federal Club, which hosts social events, such as house parties and happy hours, for members who donate an annual amount of at least $1,200. He is currently in his second year as co-chair and recently received the organization’s New Leader of the Year award, which he earned for creating a positive culture in the Federal Club and bringing 12 new donors to the $1,200-or-more level of giving.
“It’s that sharing of knowledge and education that Demaline says is vital to the campaign’s mission. “Engaging our youth is very important because I feel like, even in my generation, we don’t fully understand what people before us have gone through, people who had a tougher time growing up and being out. Our generation takes that for granted,” he said. “It means we’re changing, but we can never lose sight of where we’ve been…we can never lose sight of how much more work we have ahead of us.”
A large part of that work is seeking marriage equality. Demaline has been with his partner for six years, and they both wear commitment rings. But he has said he is not getting married until it is legal in the state in which he lives.
“I could go to Illinois and get married and get a certificate, but it’s not recognized in Ohio. It’s me standing up and making a point that says it’s still illegal for me to do this in Ohio,” he said. “I have friends that are getting married in other states. I don’t take away from that, but I don’t want them to lose sight that just because you’re married doesn’t mean that where you live, marriage is legal.”
Though Demaline celebrates Columbus for its progress – citing Columbus’ score of 100 on the HRC’s Municipality Index that ranks municipalities based on LGBTQ- friendly policies and procedures and Mayor Michael Coleman and the Columbus City Council being honored with HRC’s 2014 Equality Award – the Wauseon native recognizes that work still needs to be done in the state’s rural areas.
“Columbus is very progressive. It’s very encouraging to see our local leadership and the LGBT community in general engage and come together as one,” he said. “From my own personal experience in Smalltown, USA, there are still prejudices and discrimination that occur…There’s a lot more work to be done, and we can’t lose sight of that because we live in Columbus or in Cleveland. Once you get outside of those areas, it’s not as friendly.“
Demaline came out at 22, but he wasn’t out to his family until he moved to Columbus, and moving to the city was his call to action. “I realized there’s a whole bunch of injustices that exist. I’m not one that can sit by and complain about it. I have to be part of a solution,” he said. “If we can make one child in rural Ohio feel comfortable coming out at an earlier age, then I feel like that’s a great success.”
He knows achieving equal rights is going to be a fight, but it’s not one he’s prepared to quit any time soon. “It’s a steady process. As long as we’re steady, consistent and never give up, we’re going to have equality.”