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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 13, 2007

Sick-day measure's backers
take a second look

Some may withdraw if partners are not included

Columbus--Several supporters of a ballot measure to require paid sick leave are reconsidering the proposal because the present version doesn’t include unmarried partners.

The second look was requested by Equality Ohio, which voted June 29 to oppose the Healthy Families Act in its present form.

The act would require Ohio employers with 25 or more workers to provide at least seven paid sick days. This includes leave to care for a legally married spouse but not an unmarried partner, either same-sex or opposite sex. A non-biological parent can also take time off to care for a child.

Ohioans for Healthy Families, which is led by the Service Employees International Union, drew up the initiative and is circulating petitions.

It appears that other progressive groups, including Equality Ohio, were asked to support the effort after the initiative was filed with the state in April. The description given to those groups did not say anything about omitting unmarried partners.

Hence, the matter was largely overlooked until Equality Ohio pointed it out in late June.

The initiative tracks a national effort, led mostly by organized labor, to pass these laws in a number of states. The model language proffered by the national proponents does include unmarried partners.

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

But the decision has made progressive groups uncomfortable. They want to see the sick time made law, but also want it to include domestic partners.

Equality Ohio is asking them to work to change the proposal or withdraw from the coalition.

Since the proposal is already filed with the state, it can only be withdrawn and re-filed, or amended once it gets to the legislature.

America Votes Ohio director Scott Nunnery released a statement July 8 saying that it does not endorse any issue or campaign unless all of its partners are in agreement.

“We certainly are aware of, understand and support Equality Ohio’s position on the matter at hand,” wrote Nunnery, adding that his organization is willing to facilitate communication “between state partners and allies in any way that promotes inclusiveness, strategic collaboration and foundation building for the progressive movement in Ohio.”

Progress Ohio director Brian Rothenberg called the situation a “catch 22” adding that his organization “would have preferred the inclusive language in.”

At press time, Rothenberg said Progress Ohio’s board had not come to a conclusion, but he sensed that the organization will continue to support the proposal, while working to try to amend it.

Rothenberg expressed concern that with domestic partners included, the measure may not be constitutional under Ohio’s marriage ban amendment.

“But I’d rather see us fight to get it in there and see if a court strikes it down,” Rothenberg said.

Rothenberg said the progressive community, including the LGBT community, needs to learn from this experience to get to the table where the decisions are made earlier, in order to avoid things like this happening in the future.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio director Kellie Copeland said her organization is also considering what to do.

According to Copeland, the decision to get involved was based on a “cursory look” at the information they were given.

“Equality Ohio is a valued and respected coalition partner,” said Copeland, “and so is SEIU.”

Toledo Jobs With Justice, whose steering committee includes Equality Toledo director Kim Welter, is also considering what to do.

Spokesperson Karen Krause said the group had no role in drafting the language, and that the proposal was approved May 21 without much discussion or question. Now, the board will discuss the matter more thoroughly at its next meeting later this month.

“But,” said Krause, “we are not circulating any petitions.”



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