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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 6, 2007

Equality Ohio opposes sick-day initiative without partners

Group urges that measure be changed to include them

Columbus--Equality Ohio is opposing a ballot measure to require employers to give sick leave, unless the measure is changed to include domestic partners along with spouses.

The statewide LGBT advocacy and lobbying group’s board voted June 29 to oppose the Healthy Families Act in its present form. It is asking progressive organizations, ordinarily aligned with both causes, to change the wording before it gets any closer to the ballot.

The measure’s backers began collecting petition signatures last month. It would require Ohio employers with 25 or more workers to provide at least seven paid sick days.

Presently, this includes taking leave to care for a spouse, and also a non-biological parent taking off to care for a sick child.

Taking off to care for a sick partner is not included.

According to the group petitioning to put the act on the ballot, this was done deliberately.

Ohioans for Healthy Families spokesperson Jennifer Farmer said partners were left out of the Ohio proposal after discussions, to make it easier to pass.

The Healthy Families Act is part of a campaign in several states to make working conditions more family responsive, which Equality Ohio supports in principle.

However, the model for the measures used in other states contains text that would cover unmarried partners, both same-sex and opposite-sex.

Although Ohioans for Healthy Families is made up of groups that Equality Ohio often joins with on other matters, it was not consulted on this. It was only asked to be part of the effort after the measure was filed with the state in April.

Ohioans for Healthy Families is headed by the Service Employees International Union, and co-sponsors include the American Association of Retired Persons, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Progress Ohio, Planned Parenthood, Organize Ohio, and other organized labor and workers rights organizations.

Changing the measure to include domestic partners would require its backers to withdraw the current proposal and file a new one.

Equality Ohio says now is the time to do it, since less than ten percent of the required signatures have been gathered so far.

Some of those signatures were obtained at Cleveland and Columbus Pride events. Paid and volunteer signature gatherers in Cleveland told signers that unmarried partners were covered.

Bo Shuff, Equality Ohio’s director of education and public policy, said the group will oppose the Healthy Families Act until it is changed to include partners, and it will raise the issue and work to have it amended at every opportunity.

The campaign for the measure was officially launched June 27. When enough petition signatures are gathered, the initiative is set go to the Ohio legislature, where it will either be passed, likely with amendments, or sent to the ballot. This is the same procedure used by Citizens for Community Values to pass their widely lampooned bill to limit strip clubs in May.

After the board’s vote, Equality Ohio sent letters and a paper outlining its position to the groups in Ohioans for Healthy Families.

“Equality Ohio has learned from the lead drafters of the legislation that the inclusive language was considered, but was ultimately rejected for political expediency,” the board wrote, adding, “[The board] voted to oppose the Healthy Families Act until such time as it includes LGBT families.”

Equality Ohio is also asking each group to work to change the language and to sign onto a letter supporting a revised proposal.



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