Speaker Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) to re-assess his decision to block certain groups or individuals from being recognized on the floor of the Ohio House. Elizabeth Trisler, a Shelby County teen who recently won an oratory contest sponsored by National Right to Life, was scheduled to be presented with a proclamation by state Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) on February 3. Speaker Budish decided Ms. Trisler should not be honored on the House floor because he believed it could be divisive.

“By declining to recognize Ms. Trisler’s achievement, Speaker Budish has created a troubling precedent that anyone who is deemed ‘controversial’ by House leadership will not be honored,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “Legislators should pay tribute to those who excel in their field, regardless of their political views or affiliations. This decision could cause legislators to second guess issuing proclamations for many Ohioans.”

“Perhaps what is more troubling is the message this sends to Ms. Trisler and other young activists like her,” added Link. “Instead of teaching young people that the answer is to silence those who disagree with us, legislators should be modeling how to address difficult issues thoughtfully and listen respectfully to others.”

Since January 2009, the Ohio House has issued 217 resolutions honoring individuals or organizations. 43 have had their proclamation delivered to them to the House floor. Most of the honorees were athletes or sports teams; however, other individuals such as Miss Wheelchair Ohio and the winner of the 2009 MLK Statewide Oratorical Contest were recognized.

“Ohio has a diverse political and social landscape that includes a broad spectrum of views that may be controversial to some. If we limit whose achievements may be honored, we are only contributing to the notion that these issues are divisive and cannot reasonably be discussed. If anything, the House should expand who they choose to honor in order to recognize the accomplishments of those from a range of political and social viewpoints,” concluded Link.

Update: 02.10.10
Speaker Budish announced that he will allow Ms. Trisler to receive her honor on the House floor. He also pledged to revisit the policy to minimize future confusion.