The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right that protects all our civil liberties. Access to free and fair elections is critical to preserving democracy, and it’s something that affects LGBTQ+ people disproportionately. To celebrate Pride Month, we’ll be looking at the recent anti-LGBTQ+ bills in Ohio and the importance of state legislative races and voting rights in protecting LGBTQ+ rights.
LGBTQ+ Discrimination and Barriers to Voting
Members of the LGBTQ+ community face barriers to voting, particularly when it comes to strict voter ID laws that require voters to present a photo ID in order to be given a ballot. This sharpens the focus on the voter’s name, appearance, and gender identity. As a result, there have been cases of LGBTQ+ voters being harassed or outed at the polls, which has a greater chilling effect of keeping many more voters LGBTQ+ voters from even attempting to vote.
It can be difficult for transgender and gender nonconforming people to obtain an updated ID that accurately reflects their gender identity for many reasons. Currently, Ohio requires that voters present a photo ID that has the voter’s name, “which must substantially conform to the voter’s name as it appears in the Poll List or in the Poll Book.” This can create barriers to individuals who have changed their name and have not received a new photo ID or updated their voter registration. Together, these are very substantial barriers that may prevent some LGBTQ+ people from exercising their right to vote.
In our gerrymandered state where legislators can pick their constituents — not the other way around — the GOP supermajority has decided to inject their homophobia and transphobia into our schools and communities, despite the fact that 79% of Ohioans believe in nondiscrimination protections.
The onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the Ohio Statehouse include HB 616 (Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Mention Race bill) and HB 454 (Ban on gender affirming care for trans youth). Earlier this month, Rep. Jena Powell inserted an amendment that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in school sports into HB 151, a completely unrelated bill.
As they are trying to celebrate Pride Month, many LGBTQ+ Ohioans are instead reminded that their existence is constantly under attack. These harmful bills threaten the mental health and safety of LGBTQ+ and trans youth and their families.
LGBTQ+ rights are always on the ballot. We need to take action to tell our state lawmakers and elected officials that we do not support the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation they are forcing through the statehouse. It’s more important now than ever to stand up with our LGBTQ+ neighbors and allies to vote for the state legislators that are committed to equality and will protect LGBTQ+ rights in order to create an Ohio where everyone feels safe and welcome, regardless of race, zip code, gender, or sexuality.
Voting Rights is an LGBTQ+ Fight
LGTBT+ voices are important to our democracy. We need to protect voting rights because queer and marginalized people need to vote to have their voices heard, nationally but especially in the state legislatures that are supposed to represent them. We also need national voting standards because transgender and gender nonconforming people should not be left out of the democratic process by attempts to suppress the vote through strict voter ID laws. The disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted many of the protections provided in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We must restore those key voter protections so that voices from the LGBTQ+ community are not silenced.
With the August primary election for state legislative candidates and the general midterm election in November, it’s important we show up at the ballot box for our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors. When we build power at the polls, we send a message about the Ohio we want to see — an Ohio where everyone can get the care that they need, play the sports that they want to play, speak about their identities in schools, and show up in a way that is true to their gender and sexuality.
Make sure you are registered to vote because every vote matters to protect and preserve the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Ohio. If you need to update your voter registration because of a name change, you can do that here.