Proud of Pride Leadership.

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots in New York City, members of the LGBTQ community still take to the streets — although for parades rather than protest. Cities around the country host festivals each June to commemorate and celebrate LGBTQ pride.

The evolution in law, culture, and acceptance that has occurred in two generations time is remarkable. The reason for the transformation? Leadership.

In honor of Pride month, I want to recognize three openly gay leaders whom I admire greatly and whose leadership continues to pave the way forward.


Tom Grote

There is so much to admire about the Grote family — their success, generosity, culture, innovation, and overall belief in putting the needs of people first. I could write multiple articles in their honor. But it’s Tom Grote, the eldest of four children of Jim Grote and Annie Upper, that I recognize today.

Tom has advocated for marriage equality and adoption rights in Ohio and in DC. He is also the founder Equality Ohio. When he worked at Donatos they were one of the first companies to have domestic partner benefits and anti-discrimination policies for the gay community. When he opened Out on Main restaurant, it was ground breaking. He was the first openly gay trustee appointed by a governor at Miami University, and has served on multiple boards including Liberty Education Fund, Columbus AIDS Taskforce, and Stonewall Columbus. He founded the Pride Council, the first United Way LGBTQ group in the nation, and he won the Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign.

In 2018, Tom helped his husband run for Congress. He is a loving father and community leader. He blazes trails in his professional life as an innovator and entrepreneur, but it is his passion for breaking down barriers and increasing equality that sets him apart. Tom’s courage and conviction has brought about change and will impact the community for generations to come.


Megan Kilgore

Not only is she the first woman elected to the city auditor role in Columbus history, she is the first openly gay woman elected to an executive branch office. She was included on the cover of Time Magazine in 2018 in a story called “The Avengers: First They Marched, Now They’re Running” about women running for office.

According to a profile after her election, “[she] was elected by the widest margin of any candidate on the municipal ballot.” Her election followed Hugh Dorian’s legendary service as city auditor for 48 years.

She is an exceptional public servant with an astute mind for finance and a huge heart for making an impact. She is innovative in a role that is most often conservative.

In her goal to improve the community’s understanding of city finance, she created the first public bond sale to individual investors with amounts as accessible as $1,000. Her goal was to sell $40 million. She sold $102 million.

Megan teaches at The Ohio State University, coaches Special Olympics, and has boundless energy and enthusiasm all hours of the day and in all corners of the city. She is a leading example for how to be true to one’s self while blazing trails.


Shannon Hardin

In 2018, Shannon became the first openly gay Columbus City Councilmember elected to the role of council president. He sits in the same seat as his mentor, former Mayor Michael Coleman. In his short time in leadership he has taken bold stands on issues that will change the arts, culture, and sports landscape of the city.

His leadership in securing the votes needed to approve a ticket fee to increase investment in the arts was pivotal. For years, such a measure has been discussed, but under his tenure it happened because of his deep belief in broadening access and inclusivity. The arts will have more funds to engage more members of the public, and Shannon’s leadership made the difference. He was quoted as saying, “If it’s not for all, it’s not for us.”

If that win is not enough, consider what else was on the Columbus City Council agenda the night the ticket fee was approved — an agreement to Save the Columbus Crew, a commitment to invest public dollars in a new Crew Stadium, a campaign finance measure to cap contributions, and a living wage provision to ensure new jobs created through local tax incentives are at least $15 per hour. Well done, Council President Hardin.

We can’t wait to see what Tom, Megan, and Shannon do next.

Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO

2019-06-20T16:33:42+00:00June 20th, 2019|