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Published: Friday, 11/26/2010

B.G. votes for fairness

The ballot count went into overtime, but voters in Bowling Green have made clear that the city's homosexual, bisexual, and transgender residents are full citizens of the community. That heartening defense of essential fairness and equal rights is a victory for all Bowling Green citizens, gay and straight.

A review this week of provisional ballots cast in this month's election affirmed that a majority of voters approved two city ordinances that will protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, business, education, and other public services.

The new laws, which also cover classes of people such as military veterans and pregnant women, go into effect next month. The ordinances create a mechanism for the city to review complaints of bias.

The Bowling Green City Council passed the anti-bias laws last year. But opponents demanded that the ordinances go before voters, in the evident belief that they could kill the measures with a divisive, distorted, and mean-spirited campaign.

Fortunately, most voters - not just university students but also full-time residents - saw through the tired canard that guarantees of equal rights for all amount to special privileges for some. They rejected the notion that sexual orientation or gender identity and expression is an appropriate basis for government-sanctioned bias.

That's hardly a radical concept; more than 125 U.S. cities have similar anti-discrimination laws. Sixteen of them are in Ohio, including Toledo, where the protections have been on the books since 1998.

One Bowling Green, a grass-roots community campaign that worked to gain popular approval of the ordinances, deserves credit for its effective advocacy. Several organizations, notably the Bowling Green Coalition for Justice, contributed to the campaign and the positive vote.

Even as the new ordinances will strengthen Bowling Green's sense of inclusiveness, fearmongers now warn that the city is on a slippery slope to embracing same-sex marriage. There's no evidence that the new anti-discrimination laws must necessarily lead to that outcome, any more than they have had such an effect in most other communities.

But if Bowling Green and other places want to have that debate, it likely would prove instructive. Meanwhile, Bowling Green can take pride in itself as a community that has stood up for simple fairness and basic freedom.

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