|Chrystal Thompson at Board of Elections this morning. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The crowd spilled out into the hallway, waiting to hear the fate of the Bowling Green anti-discrimination ordinances - a race too close to call on election night. When the numbers were reported, the silence was broken by cheers. And a couple women, now with new-found support in their community, openly kissed and hugged.
Both ordinances passed, one with 52.67 percent of the vote and the other with 51.65 percent.
"I feel a little overwhelmed," said Kay Chapman, who worked on the campaign. "My faith in the people of Bowling Green has been restored and I guess it's time to let the healing begin."
As of election night, without the provisional ballots being counted, BG Ordinance 7905 was passing 4,104 to 4,080, and Ordinance 7906 was losing 4,003 to 4,119. But after the counting of the provisional ballots, likely many of them from BGSU students, Ordinance 7905 passed 4,767 to 4,284 and Ordinance 7906 passed 4,635 to 4,338. The margins are wide enough that no automatic recount is required.
Those opposed to the ordinances said the close margin is notable, considering the concerted efforts to get BGSU students to support the issues.
"It's extremely close," said Crystal Thompson, spokesperson for the anti-ordinance effort. "We were extremely close considering we were outspent by eight times."
Thompson said the earlier numbers, which showed both ordinances being soundly defeated, better reflected the feelings of true BG residents.
"The city clearly didn't want it," Thompson said this morning.
However, Kim Welter, campaign manager for ONE BG, said the victory is not due purely to student voters.
"I don't think most of BG believes gay and transgender people ought to be discriminated against," she said.
Ordinance 7905 forbids landlords from evicting or refusing to rent to people because of their sexual orientation. Ordinance 7906 makes it unlawful for businesses to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to serve a person because of sexual orientation. Council passed the ordinances in August 2009, but the laws were put on hold when an opposition group submitted referendum petitions to put the issues up for a city-wide vote.
Mary Vollmar, an opponent of the ordinances, said this morning that the new laws are just the start of a deterioration of traditional values. The ordinances, she said, are the first step to dissolve the sanctity of one man-one woman marriages in Ohio.
"People, especially young adults, need to wake up," Vollmar said.
But Welter objected to that logic, saying 17 other Ohio cities already have similar ordinances in place - many for over a decade - yet marriage laws in the state have not been changed. The ordinances, she said, simply provide a way to handle discrimination issues locally.
"It's a way to give people an option if they choose to report discrimination," she said.
The campaign brought topics into public discussion that before had been hushed. Gay and transgender community members talked about discrimination they have faced in the past.
"We're all so proud of every person who stood up and spoke out," said Darlene Bevelhymer, treasurer of the ONE BG campaign.
"This is a day to be proud of our community and to be proud of every person who stepped up to be part of this decision," said Jane Rosser, ONE BG chairperson.
And now the healing must begin, since the campaign split some members of the community. Rosser said it is up to BG residents to make the ordinances work and make the city a welcoming community by reaching out to everyone - "regardless of what yard sign they had in front of their house."
On election night, when it initially appeared the ordinances had been soundly defeated, Thompson said her organization would next target city council members who passed the ordinances.
"They're next," she said. "We're voting them out - all of them." She added that Mike Frost, the one councilmember to vote against the ordinances, would not be targeted. "We'll let Frost stay."
However, this morning, Thompson said any future action by her organization is yet unknown.
"We'll wait and see," she said.
The Wood County Board of Elections this morning announced that Ordinances 7905 and 7906 in Bowling Green were approved.
Ordinance 7905 — 4,765 yes; 4284 no.
Ordinance 7906 — 4,635 yes; 4,338 no.
The margin of victory is sufficient to avoid an automatic recount.
|BGSU students and ONE campaign volunteers Raisa Mathis, left, and Michelle Moomau look over electioin results. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)