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July 1, 2011

Athens passes partner registry and hate crime law

Athens, Ohio--Southeast Ohio is making major moves in LGBT equality, with the Athens City Council passing a domestic partner registry and adding LGBT people to their hate crime ordinance in June.

With the help of Equality Ohio and TransOhio, LGBT advocates in Athens got city council to move relatively quickly on the issues, although there is little information so far on the fate of attempts to provide domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Involved on the local level were the Committee to Move Athens Forward, Athens P-FLAG and the Ohio University students and staff, including Mickey Hart, director of the O.U. LGBT Center, and the Graduate Student Senate president Tracy Kelly.

The city council agreed in late March to examine the proposals after they were brought forward by Hart, Kelly, Linda Nippert and LGBT Center affairs vice commissioner Amelia Shaw.

“Really, it’s about the values that we have as community members and what we want to see our community as,” council member Elahu Gosney said at the time, according to the Athens News. “I think it’s clear that in Athens, we want to be as inclusive as we can and embrace all members of our community in an equal manner.”

The creation of the domestic partner registry adds Athens to the Ohio club of Cleveland Heights, Toledo, Cleveland and Yellow Springs, which already have registries.

To register as domestic partners in Athens will cost $25, and the requirements are similar to those in other cities: shared responsibilities, over the age of 18, and not married or in a domestic partnership with someone else.

Ohio’s “ethnic intimidation” laws do not include LGBT people, but ordinances in various cities do, like Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Because of the lack of inclusion at the state level, higher-level crimes cannot have a hate crime enhancement to their punishments.

Athens has had a sexual orientation non-discrimination law on the books since 1998, when council enacted an ordinance to replace one passed but repealed by voters nine years earlier.

Columbus considers contractor measure

In addition to the three ordinances proposed or passed in Athens, Columbus is in the process of examining an addition to its contractor ordinance that would prohibit those entering into contracts with the city from discriminating by sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

That measure is being championed by councilor Zach M. Klein, the chair of the development committee.

“It is important that we demonstrate to all Columbus’ residents and visitors that we will do anything possible to treat all people in an equal, fair and welcoming manner,” he said. “Our commitment to equality and diversity is a significant reason why Columbus is a special place to work, live and raise a family.”




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