Friday, June 5, 2009

Update on EHEA

Yesterday, the Government Committee of the Ohio House heard testimony from proponents for the Equal Housing and Employment Act which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in this state. It was the second day of testimony; the first was last week when Reps. Stewart and McGregor (the two sponsors) testified. Next week, on Wednesday the 11th, they will be hearing testimony from opponents.

For now, however, Equality Ohio/Progress Ohio's joint project, Do What's Right Ohio!, has logged the testimony of seven individuals who support the measure -- Equality Ohio's Lynne Bowman, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission's Michael Payton, the United Methodist Church's Bishop Ough, Cardinal Health's Ron Templin, the Miami Valley Fair Housing Coalition's Jim McCarthy, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, and Ohio teacher Jimmie Beall, who was fired from her job for the perception of her sexual orientation. I did not read over the testimony in great detail, but I got a chance to peruse it... but it seemed kind of dry. Nothing really outstanding or anything you probably haven't heard before. I did, however, like this bit from the Bishop:
Last year, with the election of President Obama, the world watched with awe and hope as our great country, once again, demonstrated the dynamic strength and vitality of our Constitution – a Constitution whose basic tenets are that all people are created equal and, under the law, are to be treated equally. Our Ohio State Constitution enshrines these same ideals and inalienable rights. We are slowly, but unmistakably, moving toward the full equality and robust justice our forefathers and foremothers envisioned for every citizen of this country and this state. It is time for Ohio to take the next step in this steady march toward justice and liberty for all. It is time for Ohio specifically and unequivocally to prohibit housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is time for Ohio fully to protect its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. It is time for Ohio to honor our Constitution and trust its inherent truths and explicit liberties. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said in reference to the United States Constitution: “It is time to take the thin paper and turn it into thick action.” With the passage of HB 176, we take another step of turning that thin paper into thick action – action that will protect the rights of Ohio citizens who have been discriminated against for too long.
You can read through all of the testimony and come up with your own thoughts.

Meanwhile, though, the Gay People's Chronicle, out of Cleveland, doesn't seem to think it's going to be as easy as we think it is to get through., though I'm confused by their thinking. They quote 38 definite yes's in the House, and 22 possible yes's. That's 60 votes, with only 50 required. In short: why is it going to be so difficult to get through the House? Seems like it may make it through at least this body easily. They are right... the Senate be more problematic, and the Republican Senate President, Bill Harris of Ashland, is not saying his piece on it. The hope is that by adding religious exemptions and exemptions to businesses smaller than 15 employees, it is likely he will allow his party to vote their conscience and not the party line. But, for now, he's quiet and will consider it when it reaches the Senate.

Jeez. This is a long process, seriously. More importantly, I can't believe we're even concerned it was going to fail -- after all, don't something like 77% of Ohioans support protections? I'm just amazed, that's all... you'd think our Representatives would be a little more, well, you'd think there's be more on our side, no questions asked, right?

Anyways, opponent testimony next week! That should be fun to follow up with!!!

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