It takes a brave and committed person to take a stand for progressive values in a notoriously conservative city like Cincinnati. Nonetheless, Nancy Minson was up to the challenge, tackling her share of political battles with an ingratiating sense of grace and good humor.
An outspoken social activist, Minson was an advocate of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people, even though she was straight. To people who knew her, that wasn’t surprising. Minson’s compassion and sense of justice were two of her greatest strengths.
She often recounted a quote from a rabbi that she learned as a child: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I’m only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
That’s a sentiment Minson practiced throughout her life.
She was involved in the successful effort in 2004 to repeal Article 12, the amendment to Cincinnati’s charter that — for more than a decade — prohibited city officials from enacting any laws aimed at protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
But Minson also did much more to help others at various times including working as a congressional staffer, writing for a newspaper in Belgium, and being a case management supervisor for elderly patients. She also was the first chair of Cincinnati’s Citizen Complaint Authority in 2002, formed after the riots a year earlier that were sparked by the police shooting death of an unarmed black man during a foot chase in an Over-the-Rhine alley.
In September 2009, Minson died from pancreatic cancer at age 63, after a stay at Hospice in Cincinnati.
The Paddock Hill native’s legacy is fondly remembered by many people locally. Now, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation is striving to create an honorarium in her name, so that more people are aware of her efforts.
Nancy’s only brother, Larry Minson, was one of her loudest champions.
“Our family was very conservative, so it was stressful on her and them when she stood up for the rights of the LGBT community,” Larry says.
“Our family members often thought she was a lesbian but she was not, she was genuinely motivated to change the biased conditions the community was under.”
Minson helped build bridges between LGBT people and the community at large,.
“Nancy was involved in the long process of repealing Article 12 and she was a persistent voice and vocal organizer to maintain a focus on undoing that stigma,” says Hans Johnson, vice chair of the Task Force’s board. “It took more than 11 years to ensure that it was repealed and it took a major effort, and Minson played a big role.”
Founded in 1973, the Task Force focuses on bolstering LGBT activism and grassroots political organizing. One of its missions is to fight anti-gay ballot initiatives across the nation.
“The major effort to fight and undo Article 12 is an example of courage and coalition-building,” Johnson says.
Minson adds, “Nancy could engage with people and she did it in a polite way, and she (also) was deeply engaged with her business life.”
The saga of changing minds about Article 12 and slowly building community support for its repeal is an example to be emulated in years ahead.
“Nancy was a mentor for me and many people, and we are very grateful to have been blessed with her presence,” Johnson says. “She was an example of the most effective kind of leadership across the country and she should be remembered in an extravagant way.”
The foundation wants to create a small annual prize to recognize a non-gay ally of equality for LGBT people. The ideal recipient of the proposed Nancy Minson Memorial Recognition for Righteous and Courageous Action will be a person who has made a strategic impact toward winning an important victory for the LGBT community. The prize will be presented at the “National Conference for LGBT Equality: Creating Change” that the Task Force hosts later this month.
In order for the prize to be created, funds must be raised.
“Initiating the prize for next year requires an endowment of $10,000 and we currently are $4,000 away from our mark,” Johnson says.
“This award makes me very proud of my sister,” Minson adds. “She has promoted women to be more active in politics and she made lifelong friendships in all those communities.
“It is wonderful that her legacy is being remembered in such a positive light, and it shows just how many people she touched.”
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