First, in Cleveland, thanks to the fierce activism of folks in this state -- House Dems credit the LGBT community for assisting in this decision -- Cleveland City Councilmember Roosevelt Coats will not be getting promoted to the 10th District State House of Representatives seat being exited by Rep. Eugene Miller. Coats, as you may remember, publically opposed Cleveland's Domestic Partner Registry by quoting Bible passages, angering a lot of us (and our friend Bo over at BearsLeft.com who put everyone onto the issue) and leaving us wondering whether he would be a fair-minded representative for all of his constituents... or if he may become another religious idealogue turned represenative. The House Democratic caucus, however, selected Cleveland lawyer Robin Belcher to take over. I do love me some women in politics.
Onto the Equal Housing and Employment Act (HB 176)... the first round of hearings for the sexual orientation and gender protections bill, this time in the State Government Committee in the House, was held yesterday with two primary speakers: sponsors Rep. Stewart and Rep. McGregor. Equality Ohio reports positive feedback and states that they are taking what they learned from the questions and responses to further refine their arguments and address specific concerns for folks.
I got a copy of four testimonies -- Stewart, McGregor, EO Executive Director Lynne Bowman, and Toledo resident Brandi Fasnaugh -- that will be available on Do What's Right, Ohio later today, but I thought I'd give you the most rocking-est part, thanks to Republican sponsor Rep. McGregor:
The Declaration of Independence declared before the world that in this country, ”all Men arecreated equal.‘ In the nearly two hundred and twenty-three years since that document was authored, we as a nation have worked to ensure that all People are treated equally in the eyesof the law. It has not always been an easy task, and often, it has taken government action tohelp to move that process along. The law protects citizens, regardless of race, color, religion,gender, national origin, age, ancestry, or disability from being discriminated again inemployment and housing rights. And, yet, in Ohio, people can lose their jobs or be denied housing, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.Holla!!!!
There is no more controversial issue being debated in this nation today that that of the issue ofequal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. However in my view, the debate surrounding this legislation is not an issue of morality. Representative Stewart and I arenot asking you to vote in support of a lifestyle that you may or may not agree with. We standbefore you today to vote in support of fairness and equality. We stand before you today to vote against discrimination.
Some will argue that this legislation is not necessary because homosexuality is a choice, alifestyle that an individual chooses to subscribe to. While opinions and scientific research varyon whether or not homosexuality is a choice that is not what this debate is about. House Bill 176‘s sole intention is to protect basic constitutional rights when it comes to housing,employment and public accommodation, just as we already prevent discrimination of individuals based on religious affiliation.
The next round of testimony -- this from proponents -- will be next Wednesday at 2:30pm (Room 17 in the Statehouse) in committee. EO has been asked to keep it down to six people -- sigh -- but, hopefully, that means the next week's (June 10th? I'm losing track of days ... is that the next week or the next next week) testimony from opponents will be kept that short, as well. You'll be sure to hear from me if it isn't. EO is asking people to attend the committees as best they can; you can contact the organization by visiting their website, or through the website Do What's Right Ohio.
Looks like we may be slated to a committee vote -- and from there onto the House floor -- by the end of June. Let's get this shit done, folks, keep contacting your Representatives (and your State Senators, while you're at it... let's prime that pump!).