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Equality Ohio Holiday Party

On Thursday, December 18th, our first stop was at the Painesville Chamber of Commerce Annual Holiday Mixer held on the 3rd floor of Victoria Place in downtown Painesville. It looked like about 100 people were going to be there so we got to greet a lot of old friends like Rick and Tracy Montgomery from Goddess Construction who attended the Holiday Party of Margaret W. Wong and Associates and really liked meeting Ms. Wong. Regarding Ms. Wong and our office, we spoke to a person who believed that Ms. Wong may have helped a relative of hers with the paperwork when she immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Ms. Cathy Bieterman, Coordinator of Economic Development for the City of Painesville, discussed the possibility of having a meeting with Ms. Wong sometime in the beginning of next year.

We met several people that we hadn't met before like Mr. John DeNoewer, Vice President, of PNC Bank in Mentor and Mr. David R. Lette, II, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager of PNC Bank in Painesville. Another couple that we talked to for the first time was Debra and Tom Fitzgerald who own and manage Fitzgerald's Irish Bed and Breakfast located nearby. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald also have a business called Fitzgerald Tours which specializes in tours of Ireland.

Throughout the evening we were entertained by Ms. Mary Ann Ratchko-Gamez who played the flute beautifully.

We had a good conversation with David and Marilyn Amos who are both members of the Painesville Community Improvement Corporation. They said that many years ago one could have looked out of the third story window and seen the Parmly Hotel which was built in 1861 and demolished over 100 years later in 1965. Mr. Amos showed us a photo of an old postcard which presents the Parmly as the type of old fashioned, luxurious establishment that we don't see too much of these days; we all agreed that the Parmly must have looked lovely when it was snowing. Mr. and Mrs. Amos also talked about a film that was shot in Painesville in 1964 titled "One Potato, Two Potato" which had shots of the Painesville Square and the Parmly.

Two people who really captured the spirit of Christmas were Mr. Jim Lockwood, a professional magician, who told us that he has been entertaining during the Christmas season for the past 36 years and even though it is a hectic period, he loves it as does Ms. Barbara Monacelli, Special Assistant in the Dept. of Economic Development, who says that her day is different every day and it is always a lot of fun.

We stayed a bit too long at the Painesville Holiday Party so we hurried back to Cleveland in time to catch the second half of Equality Ohio's 2nd Annual Holiday Party at the Pura Vida on Euclid Avenue but we still managed to arrive in time for the program in which Ms. Elyzabeth Holford, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, gave the opening remarks. Ms. Holford recalled how exciting Gay Games 9 was and then thanked all of the attendees "for being here in the name of equality."

Ms. Holford was very happy, as was everyone there, about U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's memo to all component heads and U.S. Attorneys which firmly states that the U.S. Dept. of Justice "will no longer assert that Title VII's prohibition against discrimination based on sex does not encompass gender identity per se (including transgender discrimination." All of this saw this as a significant victory for LGBT rights. She talked about recent local victories on the legislative front and what she wanted to see accomplished in the future. She said that one of the Equality Ohio "engages communities to move forward."

She then presented the Ally of the Year Award to Ms. Connie Schultz because Ms. Schultz "understands what we are talking about and takes it one step farther. She speaks to our issues eloquently." Moreover, Ms. Schultz "writes about unavoidable truths." There was great applause when Ms. Schultz accepted her award. She said that she accepted this award with mixed emotions because everyone should be allies and "willing to support equality." Therefore, there should be no need for an award. She talked about how she has been writing about the Tamar Rice case on her facebook page and was impressed by the number of LGBT people who were condemning the shooting of him. Ms. Schultz struck a familiar chord when she said that she realized how social activism can make one feel exhausted but it all depends on "who we want to be the next morning." Do we want to wake up and feel like we have given up or "is the game on?" Thanks to her facebook conversations, Ms. Schultz feels very optimistic about Ohio.

Also present at this event was Ms. Schultz' husband, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. We spoke with him for a couple of minutes about President Obama's executive order dealing with immigration reform and Senator Brown assured us that he strongly supports the executive order just as he supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio was there too and it is always good to see her. We understand that Cuyahoga County Executive Elect Armond Budish was there but unfortunately, we didn't get to speak to him.

When we told Ms. Jackie Cassard, a friend of Ms. Schultz, that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, Ms. Cassard smiled and said that Ms. Wong had helped a lot with friends and family members.

Ms. Alana Jochum, Regional Coordinator of Equality Ohio, gave us a big hug when we first walked in the door and Dr. Molly B. Merryman, Ph.D. from Kent State University thanked us for arranging for the LGBT Center to receive a citation from U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich on its opening day several years ago. Ms. Kate Kennedy of the Stonewall Democrats asked us to explore possibly having Ms. Wong speak at one of their meetings next year.

Spirits were certainly high at this gathering and Ms. Holford perfectly stated what all of the work that Equality Ohio does is all about when she said that this is "is about dignity and the ability to be exactly who we are."

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