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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
June 29, 2007

Healthy Families Act does not include gay partners


Columbus--A proposal to require Ohio employers with 25 or more workers to provide at least seven paid sick days is a mixed bag for LGBT families.

A non-biological parent taking off work to care for a sick child would be included, as would taking off to care for a spouse. Taking off to care for a sick partner would not.

According to the group petitioning to put the Healthy Families Act on the ballot, this was done on purpose to make it more likely to pass.

“It was not unanimous,” said Jennifer Farmer, spokesperson for Ohioans for Healthy Families, the group circulating petitions to force the Ohio legislature to either pass the law or send it to the ballot.

According to Farmer, some groups involved in drafting of the initiative wanted to include partners, others did not.

“We wanted to file it based on “spouse” as it is in Ohio law in order to get the bill in place, then expand it [to include partners] later,” said Farmer, also conceding that was not likely based on the history of the Ohio legislature.

Ohioans for Healthy Families is headed by the Service Employees International Union, which Farmer also works for.

The coalition also includes Progress Ohio, the American Association of Retired Persons, America Votes, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and other public and private sector labor unions.

Farmer said the coalition is growing and that Ohioans for Healthy Families is still reaching out for more to join.

At press time, the statewide LGBT political group Equality Ohio is still undecided on supporting the measure, though some of the groups involved are often allied with the LGBT community.

Equality Ohio’s director of education and public policy Bo Shuff said he was given a copy of the language after it was filed with the Ohio attorney general on April 6, but Equality Ohio was not consulted on it.

The campaign was officially launched June 27. When enough petition signatures are gathered, the initiative will 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.

Under the Healthy Families Act, sick leave could be used by an employee for their own health care or “for the purpose of caring for a child, parent, or spouse who has a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition or needs a diagnosis or preventative care.”

According to Joy Savren, a lesbian family attorney in Cleveland, the definition used in the proposal for “child” is adequate for LGBT families since it applies to any person standing “in loco parentis,” which is “broad enough and sufficiently vague to cover a whole range of people” including non-biological parents.

Unmarried heterosexual and LGBT couples are another matter.

Savren believes the language is sufficiently specific enough to omit those couples.

She said that to fix it, the proposal should have language covering adult household members or unmarried partners.

Ohioans for Healthy Families had canvassers at Cleveland Pride on June 16, some of whom were telling signers that LGBT families and partners were covered.

Farmer said some of the canvassers were volunteers, others were paid.

“They should not have been telling people that,” said Farmer. “I will look into that.”





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