Karla Rothan thinks Columbus deserves its title as one of the top 10 cities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, she said.

Karla Rothan thinks Columbus deserves its title as one of the top 10 cities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, she said.

But there are still changes to be made, locally and nationally, said Stonewall Columbus' executive director.

"Our [Pride Festival] theme this year is 'freedom,'" Rothan said. "Do we have any more freedoms since 28 years ago, or even 40 years ago, when we began this movement? We don't think, not so many.

"We changed a lot of hearts and minds, and we've gotten on TV a little more, and people like us a little bit more. But really, politically and legislatively, we are still in the exact same place we were many, many years ago."

Having marriage equality would make many of the following issues possible, Rothan said. In the meantime, GLBT activists are working on these pieces:

Don't ask, don't tell

This national issue is highlighted locally this year by the Pride Parade's grand marshal, Rupert "Twink" Starr. The World War II veteran is openly gay and actively objects to the U.S. military policy that prohibits armed forces members from disclosing their sexual orientation or engaging in any homosexual behavior.

Equal housing and employment rights

Just as in 1981, individuals can still be barred from renting an apartment or fired from a job in Ohio for being gay. Ohio House Bill 176 prevents that by adding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as a protected class in the state, something Columbus has already done for its employees.

The bill has been in a House committee for four sessions, and in that time, "we've been educating folks on both sides of the aisle," said the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Dan Stewart. Stewart expected the bill to pass out of committee yesterday and for a House vote to be taken before the end of the month.

Domestic partner registry

The rights that a city, county or state might choose to afford to domestic partners vary. While government recognition of a relationship doesn't afford the same rights as marriage, it can lead to shared health insurance and other benefits - which some businesses and universities already offer.

And under current law, people who aren't married aren't considered next of kin, so committed same-sex couples are often denied the ability to see a partner in the hospital or to pick up a body from the coroner's office, Rothan said. The same goes for any unmarried heterosexual couple, she said.

Adoption

Many adoption agencies don't permit same-sex couples to adopt children, instead putting a child in one partner's name and giving the other partner no legal connection to the child. This issue will be the theme for Pride 2010, said Rothan, who thinks examining "What makes a family?" will be of interest to many couples and families.

"If we had marriage equality, that would change that, because with marriage equality comes a lot of these rights," she said.