Tuesday, May 13, 2008

OHIO/CINNKY: Equal Housing and Employment Act

STUPID!!! I can't believe I missed this.

From Equality Ohio:

Insisting that Ohio's laws must be updated to reflect Ohioans' values, a trio of state legislators introduced bills to make it illegal to discriminate against a person in employment, housing or public accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Ohio is among the most unwelcoming states in the nation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," said Lynne Bowman, executive director of Equality Ohio. "Today, Ohio took a major step toward fairness and equality."

Bowman cited a recent survey showing that two-thirds of Ohioans favor passage of the legislation.

Twenty-one states, 11 of Ohio's 13, four-year public colleges and 16 Ohio cities and villages have ordinances that protect their gay and lesbian residents. Rather than continue to allow a patchwork of protections – or none at all -- the legislators called for passage of statewide standards that would uniformly help all Ohio residents.

"Where you live should not determine the extent of your rights," Sen. Dale Miller, a Cleveland Democrat, told a Statehouse news conference Tuesday.

Miller, the main sponsor of the Senate bill, had introduced similar legislation in the past but noted that today's measures have a record number of co-sponsors, the endorsement of Gov. Ted Strickland and the promise of committee hearings.

In the House, sponsor Rep. Jon Peterson, a Delaware Republican, called the legislation "a matter of human dignity," and said, "America was founded on the principle of equality for all, but Ohio’s laws only demand equality for some."

Peterson and Democratic Rep. Dan Stewart of Columbus served as primary sponsors of the House bill.

Stewart pointed out that more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have implemented similar policies and major Ohio employers, such as Nationwide Insurance, view tolerance as a means of attracting and retaining top-tier employees.

"Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to serve their community is an important part of moving Ohio forward," Stewart said.

Joining the legislators was central Ohio school teacher Jimmie Beall, who told how she lost her job with the London City Schools after the district learned that she is a lesbian.

"I was devastated," Beall said. "When I consulted with legal experts, they all gave the same answer: My family did not have the legal protections afforded to most other families. We were left with no health insurance, no benefits and no sense of security."

Beall said she decided to tell her story, hoping it would convince legislators of the need to update Ohio’s law.

"It’s time to do what’s right," Beall said. (Link to this article here -- also adding the Equality Ohio Blog to the Blogroll, even though they rarely post)

HELL YEA!!!! To clarify for people: The Equal Housing and Employment Act has been re-introduced in both the Ohio House and Senate. For those who follow, this is the bill that was supposed to be introduced on September 11, 2008 but was delayed due to lack of bi-partisan support.

There is a great tracking site that's a joint work between Progress Ohio and Equality Ohio called Do What's Right Ohio. However, they do not list any way for us to help. Back to the basics kids: contact your local representative. You can find who they are and their contact information here. This is kind of a pain in the ass, I know. It's an old problem I've had with the LGBT activist organizations -- they are now so focused on lobbying, which is wonderful, that not a lot of people are acting out (although, is it possible this came about because less people were acitve??? or, do we simply fail to inspire anymore???).

For the original information about the two bills, go here for House Bill 502 and here for Senate Bill 305. And, per the bill analysis, the Ohio Revised Code describes "sexual orientation" as including "heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, or transgenderism, whether actual or perceived." I love love the term "transgenderism." IE -- it's inclusive of the LGBTQ spectrum.

Will it pass? Je ne sais pas. It's failed twice, but let's see this time around, shall we?


For those who want it, here's the email I am sending. Feel free to edit it:

Dear (Senator/Representative):

I am writing to encourage you to support (House Bill 502/Senate Bill 305), the Equal Housing and Employment Act. It was introduced on March 11th and currently awaits committee approval.

The rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified (GLBT) persons in the state of Ohio is vital to our state's continued strength. GLBT people make up a great portion of our workers in this state, and their ability to work freely in Ohio without fear of being denied either housing or employment solely on the basis of their sexual orientation hinders our abilities to attract people and employers.

It is also of vital important to me. I have lived, gone to school, and worked in Ohio for eight years now, and I love it here. I also happen to be gay, and a constituent of yours. Though I have experienced no direct discrimination based on my sexual orientation, it would be a comfort to know that it would no longer be an issue here; it would be wonderful to know that my state values me enough to protect my ability to live and work.

Please support this bill and help it pass. I would love to be able to say that my representatives are sponsors on it, but your vote would be enough to tell me that you respect every person within your constituency and understand the part we play in this state's economy.

Thank you very much for your time.

I mean, whatever. It might be a little weak, but, on the bright side, my state senator, Kearney, is a sponsor the the Senate Bill!!!! I'll be writing him a thank you note, clearly. However, my representative, Driehaus, is not. I will be sending him this note, plus an addition as he is also a Price Hill resident . . . and a Democrat!!!!

Take a little time and write your own, guys (and post when you do!!!!!)

From Do What's Right Ohio (via the HRC), a map that tells us which state offer protections, though DWRO doesn't tell me what the colors mean:

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