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March 3, 2006

Adoption ban could move, although most oppose it

 

Columbus--While a bill to ban GLBT adoption and foster parenting appears to be stalled in the Ohio House, a statewide advocacy group warns that it could eventually move, or reappear as a ballot issue.

However, a poll shows that almost two-thirds of Ohioans would oppose such a measure.

Stonewall Columbus and Equality Ohio hosted a February 25 town hall meeting on the bill at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. About 70 people attended, hoping to learn more about House Bill 515, introduced last month by State Rep. Ron Hood, RAshville.

The bill seeks to bar the fostering or adoption of children by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, or anyone with a GLBT household member, including another child. The event was supported by the church�s Social Justice Committee.

Stonewall Columbus interim executive director Kellye Pinkleton introduced Lynne Bowman, executive director of Equality Ohio, a group founded in response to the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and other similar constructs.

�With the introduction of House Bill 515,� Bowman said, �people are, pardon the pun, coming out of the closet against it.�

She argued that citizens of Ohio needed to mobilize �to keep things like this from happening.�

Bowman gave a brief history of Equality Ohio, which has two arms: an educational one which is �trying to change the hearts and minds of people in Ohio,� and a political one which does advocacy and lobbying in favor of equality for GLBT Ohioans.

On the Ohio adoption ban bill, Bowman said that her organization has already been working with national groups like Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other GLBT groups. She said that they had all been prepared, in the wake of marriage ban amendments in 19 states, �that the next wave of bans would be on foster care.�

�We knew where this would end up,� she added.

The primary states where such bills are being pushed by anti-gay Republicans include Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio. All five have statewide LGBT groups that are part of the national Equality Federation. Bowman said that they had discussed strategies across states to defeat these laws.

Bowman recounted a meeting of community leaders from around Ohio, including clergy, held February 4 at the same church. �We met to see what our strategy would be were this law to be introduced,� she said.

At that meeting it was decided that work to defeat this bill would focus on the Ohio Senate as opposed to the Ohio House. The Senate, which has a total of 33 members and 11 Democrats, would require less work and fewer resources �to convince only six Republicans to go against House Bill 515� argued Bowman.

�At that meeting we felt pretty good about being able to target and convince those six,� she said.

Bowman was at the Human Rights Campaign national headquarters on February 9 when a reporter called to ask her about H.B. 515, which had just been introduced by Hood, with co-sponsors Tom Brinkman, Jr., R-34 of Cincinnati; Linda Reidelbach, R-21 of Columbus; John Willamowski, R-4 of Lima; Derrick Seaver, R-78 of Minster; James Hoops, R-75 of Napoleon; Danny Bubp, R-88 of West Union; Mike Gilb, R-76 of Findlay, Stephen Buehrer, R-74 of Delta; and Tim Schaffer, R-5 of Lancaster.

64% of Ohioans oppose bill

�It was amazing that while I was talking to the reporter on my cell with one hand,� Bowman related, �in the other hand I had the HRC polling data of Ohioans who are overwhelmingly in support of GLBT people adopting and fostering.�

�This is not like the marriage fight,� she said, where most voters opposed same-sex marriage.

The HRC data show that 64% of Ohioans are against a ban preventing gays and lesbians from adopting and fostering and 79% favor adoptions and fostering on a case-by-case basis with the best interests of the child kept in mind.

She told the gathered crowd of GLBT citizens and their heterosexual allies that House Speaker Jon A. Husted, RKettering, is �clearly on the record that the bill is not going to go anywhere.�

Husted, who sets the legislative agenda for the House, has said that he would not move the bill forward.

�And if there is one thing about Husted that you can take to the bank with you,� Bowman said, �is that when he says something is not going to be introduced, he means it.�

�That doesn�t mean we need to sit back and relax,� Bowman warned.

She spoke of a legislative maneuver to go around the speaker and have the bill voted on the House floor without going to a committee first. Bowman thinks that such a maneuver is likely.

Bill may reappear as ballot measure

There is also a building fear that if Husted prevents the bill from getting a vote in the House, then anti-gay activists on the right will recast it as a ballot initiative.

Bowman believes that such an initiative would appear in the 2008 presidential election, but said that it could come in this year�s, to bring supporters of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell�s gubernatorial bid to the polls.

That strategy served the Republicans well in 2004, she said, when marriage ban amendments on the ballot in Ohio and ten other states brought out anti-gay evangelicals to re-elect President Bush.

Bowman said that if an adoption ban became a ballot measure, then Equality Ohio would form an issue-oriented political action committee to campaign for its defeat.

Bowman then turned to other ways to defeat an adoption ban in whatever form it is brought forth.

�If you haven�t already called your representatives, do so immediately,� she urged.

She also said that people needed to start talking to friends, coworkers, relatives, and others about this issue right away, �putting a human face on the issue,� and not avoiding the gay aspect.

�We know that what works with ballot initiatives is clear and honest discussions with people, constantly using the word gay, and in doing so putting a face on the humanity that we all share.�

Lobby day set for May 17

Equality Ohio is planning a �Lobby for Equality� day on Wednesday, May 17, when GLBT individuals and their allies will visit the Statehouse in Columbus and talk to their legislators about creating an atmosphere in Ohio that is conducive to equal rights and protections for all, including GLBT citizens.

Over 300 people from around the state have already registered for this lobby day. Training sessions for it will be held on Saturdays during April and May in six Ohio cities to help people know how to lobby their representatives.

Several in the audience expressed their sheer horror at the possibility of such a bill passing while others asked about ways in which they could become involved.

Andrew Miller stood up and on the spot called his state senator, Steve Stivers of Columbus--whose number he has programmed into his cell phone--and expressed his opposition to H.B. 515.

Hanging up, he said to the crowd, �It�s that easy to call your representatives and it�s important that we do so.�

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