Equality Ohio Leader Alana Jochum: “It’s All About Lived Equality”By Shane Stahl • March 29, 2018 • 1:31 pm
Freedom For All Americans is proud to work with partners across the LGBTQ movement, including invaluable leaders from statewide organizations working toward LGBTQ equal treatment. Through our States Action Team, FFAA staff stands shoulder to shoulder with state equality groups, building momentum for non-discrimination protections wherever possible.
In the coming weeks and months we’ll be featuring conversations and profiles with leaders of statewide equality groups across the country. These individuals are the point people for organizations that seek to protect LGBTQ people in their state, as well as offer resources and support.
Today we’re speaking with Alana Jochum of Equality Ohio. Alana is the executive director of the Buckeye State’s leading group that works to protect LGBTQ Ohioans and ensure that fairness and equal treatment are a reality for them. The group also works to push municipalities and supportive legislators to update or write laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
FREEDOM FOR ALL AMERICANS: Ohio lawmakers recently held a historic hearing on legislation that would enact statewide comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. How did it go?
Alana Jochum: The hearing very well. The attendance was so high that our supporters filled the largest hearing room at the statehouse and an overflow room. Over 150 people submitted written testimony, and it was heartening watching our legislators ask engaging questions and have thoughtful responses to the testimony. Our next steps are to keep the momentum moving forward. One way we are building momentum is by continuing to add members to the Ohio Business Competes coalition, which is a no-cost, nonpartisan coalition of businesses with a shared agreement that Ohio should have LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations because it’s good for Ohio business. Ultimately, we would like to see legislators bring the bill out of committee and to a full vote before the House and Senate.
Alana Jochum, Executive Director of @EqualityOhio: “I am here in part to represent the many who can’t be here, because they are afraid of living as their true self. The chorus of voices not here also speaks volumes.” #OHFairnessAct #HB160 pic.twitter.com/pkS6gmbGtK
— FreedomforAllUSA (@freedom4allusa) January 31, 2018
FFAA: What is some other work that Equality Ohio is doing outside of legislative efforts?
A.J.: We are so proud to announce the formation of a legal clinic focused on LGBTQ issues in our state. We are in the information-gathering stage and investigating the types of legal issues people encounter in daily life. We get phone calls all the time from people who are in a tough spot and can’t see a way out. Sometimes there is a legal issue that, if we had the resources, we could help them take care of with just a little bit of support. And, of course, there are plenty of situations where LGBTQ people need legal assistance because of gaps in the law or systems that simply don’t consider the needs of LGBTQ people. The dream here is to create a legal clinic that will be a culturaly humble resource that can provide support from the legal community across Ohio.
We’re also continuing to work on our municipal strategy. So far in Ohio, there are 19 inclusive cities with full protections. Also, after the 2016 election, we were able to mobilize several communities to protect youth from “conversion therapy.”
FFAA: Tell us a bit about your journey with Equality Ohio, and how you arrived where you are today.
A.J.: I’ve been working in a volunteer capacity with many LGBTQ equality organizations for my entire adult life. I was very focused on activism in college at Baldwin Wallace with a group called Allies. After college, I went to law school and became a practicing attorney. Then in June 2013, the Windsor decision came down [from the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal respect for legal marriages between same-sex couples, unconstitutional]. I was on a call with other leaders across the state, and I said, “This clears the way for so many hurdles in Ohio, not just marriage.” I reached out to Equality Ohio and wrote a grant that created the position of Northeast Ohio coordinator and I left my practice to start there full time. I kept working my way through different positions and eventually ended up as executive director.
FFAA: What would you say the top priorities are for Equality Ohio in 2018?
A.J.: Honestly it’s advancing lived and legal equality for LGBTQ Ohioans, and finding the opportunities to promote both in 2018. We can’t promise that statewide non-discrimination will pass this year, but we’re going to exhaust every possible opportunity to make it happen. We’ll be coupling that work with our continued collaboration with municipalities to update their codes or create laws that make non-discrimination a reality. So often, we are part of the experience of changing the hearts and minds of stakeholders to understand LGBTQ people in their community. We need to find every opportunity we can to be ready and vigilant to recognize those moments, in part by creating our own opportunities. Lastly, I always want to make sure our team wakes up every day and finds pride and joy in doing this work.