Ohio LGBT Civil Rights Bill to be Introduced
[COLUMBUS, OH] - An Ohio state senator is preparing to introduce a civil rights bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ohioans in March.
Democrat Dan Brady, whose District 23 includes Cleveland?s west side and west suburbs, says he has been discussing plans with LGBT community leaders and developing the proposal?s principles and language.
"I know that I would like to see consensus around equality in the workforce of both private industry and state employees," said Brady, "especially since the governor killed the executive order for state employees."
Gov. Bob Taft eliminated a 16-year-old order banning job bias for sexual orientation when he took office in 1999.
Brady doesn?t expect his bill to get very far in the current Ohio legislature, which he describes as "having very reactionary legislators in key positions." But he feels the debate it will generate is good to have.
"That?s why I want to work with the [LGBT] community, and not be out on my own," said Brady. "But I want to push the envelope as far as we can, maybe even around what is commonly known as ?gay marriage?."
"This is like during the civil rights movement," he added, "where progress and decisions were made, and not always the next day. But at least we will have it out there for discussion, which will force the conservatives to face their prejudices."
Presently 13 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation in their civil rights laws. Two include gender identity. Eleven Ohio cities have similar ordinances, covering a sixth of the state?s population.
Some of the state measures took a long time to become law. New York?s, which passed in December, spent three decades in the legislature. A 29-year-old Illinois bill may pass this year.
"There are people down here that need to be confronted with different points of view," said Brady, "and it is time to put the right on the defensive and make them answer questions as to why they don?t support basic civil rights."
Due to term limits, Brady cannot run for re-election to his current seat.
"But I have four years to go," he said, "and I feel comfortable going forward with this."
Brady said references to gender identity in the proposal could prove more difficult, but "I?m not ruling it out. As far as I?m concerned, civil rights are civil rights, and I understand the issue. I just want to make sure that with whatever we have, the argument is focused enough that it can?t be broken into tangents."
Brady also feels that his proposal could be a good counter to another Defense of Marriage Act that will likely be introduced as well.
"You would not have seen a DOMA bill 20 years ago," said Brady, "It is a reaction to the growing acceptance of gay people and gay civil rights, just like Confederate symbols showing up on state flags and buildings in the 1950s as a reaction to Brown v. Board of Education."
Brady said that Democrats and fair-minded Republicans "have been playing defense long enough" on LGBT rights.
"And there has been good reason to play defense," said Brady, "But sometimes the best defense is a good offense."