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June 4 , 2010

Volunteers urge lawmakers to pass equal rights bill

Columbus--About 270 citizen lobbyists descended upon the Ohio statehouse seeking equal rights on May 19.

The event was the fifth consecutive lobbying effort organized by Equality Ohio.

LGBT citizens and allies had 110 appointments scheduled with the 132 representatives and senators when the day started, according to Equality Ohio�s Michele Hopkins. Because of cancellations and legislators tied up in meetings, only 88 of those appointments were kept.

This is fewer visits than last year, when all 33 Senate offices and 71 of 99 House offices were connected with. It was also fewer participants, down from nearly 400 in 2009 and 362 in 2008.

According to Equality Ohio, the focus of the activity was once again on passage of the Equal Housing and Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The LGBT equal rights bill passed the Democratic-controlled House 56 to 39 on September 15. Five Republicans joined all the Democrats in that affirmative vote.

The Republican-controlled Senate, however, has been another matter.

Senate President Bill Harris of Ashland assigned the bill to the Rules Committee, where it has had no hearings nor other action.

Conventional wisdom is that the bill will die there at year�s end.

The measure would bar discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity in public and private employment, housing and public accommodations, similar to laws in 21 other states.

Governor Ted Strickland supports the bill and would sign it.

Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Lee Fisher addressed the lobbyists during the opening assembly.

Lobbyists also heard from Lakewood councilor Nickie Antonio, whose primary win last month makes her almost certain to become the first openly gay member of Ohio�s general assembly in January.

Antonio will represent the 13th House District, which includes all of Lakewood and some of Cleveland�s west side. It is the seat currently held by LGBT ally Mike Skindell, who will likely be elected to the Ohio Senate.

The event ended with a reception for supportive legislators and financial contributors. Proceeds from the reception help pay for the expenses of the day.

According to Hopkins, 85 attended, including 13 legislators.

Equality Ohio has scheduled the next lobbying day event for May 18, 2011. The group is on the web at www.equalityohio.org .

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