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While large cities in blue states — like New York and San Francisco — are well known for their LGBTQ inclusivity, accepting environments can now be found across the country, even in some unexpected places. The Midwestern town is home to the University of Missouri and has a bustling nightlife scene with a multitude of gay-friendly spots. For six years, representatives in the mountain state of Montana fought to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations, which was formerly classified as a felony. The law was ruled unconstitutional inand Missoula has continued to advocate for the equal rights of its LGBTQ citizens since. After Brookings received a score of 12 out of inlocal leaders embarked on a multiyear mission to bump their rating to Brookings is an outlier in South Dakota, where the average MEI score is 31, well below the national average of

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But fear not! Life is just a bit different in the Mid-Ohio Valley where that corner of Ohio and West Virginia really do work hand-in-hand. She is the first openly queer person to run for office in Wood County, and if successful, would be one of very few out people ever elected in the entire state of West Virginia.

This week, she was the target of a homophobic attack on social media deed to use her sexual orientation to both stoke fear in the community and well as to discredit her candidacy. There are a lot of people who are trying to support LGBTQ folks and to make it a more welcoming community. A few years ago, we had a nondiscrimination ordinance in Parkersburg that came before the city council. It would have provided protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. It was a big fight, it was ugly, and it went on for months. In the end, the city council voted down that ordinance and were the only city in West Virginia to vote down such a proposed ordinance.

As a homophobic attack backfires, this out city council candidate fights on

We even got a permanent endowment fund with Parkersburg Area Community Foundation. All those positives things needed to come out of it. Because this little community needed to be shaken up a little bit. There needed to be recognition to acknowledge queer people who are your family members, your neighbors, and your coworkers.

Visibility and representation really do matter. Why and Vienna City Council and why now?

I was raised in Vienna, I have a local business right in the heart of town, and I love Vienna. As with any small town, we have a lot of challenges but we also have a lot of opportunities. We need new people in leadership, people who are prepared to help guide the city in the right way moving forward. I believe I can do that.

I had never done public service before, but I know I have a lot to offer and can give back to the community. When elected, what are your priorities? It always boils down to the same things with the priorities of a small town. one is addressing aging infrastructure.

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We have some bridges that are deteriorating. I really want to work on a plan to get those fixed.

I really love researching problems, thinking about them, collaborating with people, and coming up with solutions. So this homophobic post attacking you goes up, and the responses—some negative, but most were positive—come flooding in. First of all, I want to say, I am completely humbled by all the support that I got.

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It was pouring in and it was unbelievable. I was at a city council meeting last night and I had people come up to me and were so offended by what happened. People apologized to me and apologized that I had to go through that. They were disheartened that someone would come out with such hate and such homophobia. Me personally, I was not surprised. When we were involved in the Parkersburg nondiscrimination ordinance, there were so many cruel things that were said in those council chambers.

Those awful evil things that they said week-in, week-out for months were never covered in the newspaper. It was so degrading. It was so draining.

Councilman Eric Barber was the source of so much of that. He was the one who attacked me. I wish people could have seen back then how LGBTQ people were being treated and had talked to those people in the ways they have talked to and supported me over the past few days. But the effect these homophobic attacks have on our young people really, really concerns me. This is how we handle bullies.

It was overwhelming. In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

11 gay-friendly small cities in big red states

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