Commentary

06.23.14

If The White House Can Do It, Why Can’t Ohio?

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It seems lately that our country has made huge advances in LGBT rights. And it has. And it is all happening so fast. Since last June’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions, 19 states now have marriage equality. Every remaining state where gay marriage is currently outlawed has cases sitting before federal courts.

This “equality train” will keep moving but we are in danger of losing our perspective. Just as the women’s movement didn’t end when they earned the right to vote, we need to keep our focus and recognize we have a lot of work ahead of us.

If marriage equality is achieved in Ohio in the near future, it is possible that we will be the first state in the nation to allow these unions while still permitting a LGBT person to be fired from their job or thrown out of their rental home because of who they love. This is unacceptable. And frankly, it’s a little embarrassing.

When President Obama recently declared that he would issue an executive order protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination, it was a major victory..This is great news for potentially 28 million people in the US who work for federal contractors. However this protection cannot be extended to anyone who works for a private company.

Ohio’s legislators have had many, many chances to protect LGBT Ohioans from unfair discrimination. Bills have been introduced for the past 5 legislative sessions, yet no movement in nearly 10 years.

This lack of progress says many unfortunate things about our state. It says we don’t want everyone to have the same rights. It says we aren’t serious about recruiting the best and brightest, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It says we are more concerned with who people love than what we can accomplish together.

It also tells us that we have to get to work. An overwhelming majority of us stand behind our LGBT family members, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Our legislators need to hear that. Our legislators need to know that Ohioans want this state to be inclusive and we do not support discrimination in employment, housing, businesses, and public places.

The ACLU and a strong coalition of allied organizations are working harder than ever to get this legislation moving. We will all celebrate when the “equality train” makes its way to Ohio. But we need to get everyone on that train and keep it moving beyond marriage. All aboard!

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