Ohio Politicians Debate Gay Parenting
Although the Review normally covers news that is directly related to campus events, there are some current statewide issues – such as the potential passage of House Bill 515 and the petition to increase minimum wage – that are of great interest to many Oberlin students as well. The Review is covering these issues in a two-week feature series that reports on and analyzes these contested topics.
A bill introduced by Republican Ron Hood in the Ohio House of Representatives on Feb. 9 aims to prohibit those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender from adopting or becoming foster care parents in the state of Ohio. If passed, Ohio would join Florida as the only states prohibiting LGBTQ adoption.
Proponents of House Bill 515 assert that their motivation behind the bill is protecting children who have been entrusted to the state’s care.
“What we’re looking at first and foremost and what should be the first consideration is what’s in the best interest of the child,” said Barry Sheets, Government Affairs Director of Citizens for Community Values, a Judeo-Christian activist group affiliated with the pro-life Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family.
“Research is continuing to show that the optimal environment for a child to be raised in is in a home with male and female, husband and wife, mother and father role models,” Sheets said. “We’re talking about the state and its responsibility, and the optimal environment for the child.”
Opposition to House Bill 515, however, is strong and includes House Speaker Jon A. Husted (R), who was adopted; gay rights groups Family Pride and Equality Ohio; and Oberlin’s representative to the House, Joseph Koziura (D).
“I am totally opposed to the bill,” Rep. Koziura told the Review. “Sexual persuasion shouldn’t be a hindrance to becoming a parent.”
Some critics cite the Nov. 2, 2004 passage of Issue 1 — Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act — and Bill 515 as examples of why they perceive Ohio as becoming hostile to LGBTQ individuals.
“It’s clear that there is a group of anti-gay Ohio legislators who are determined to do anything in their power to diminish the rights of LGBTQ individuals and families,” said senior Emily Reitz, former co-chair of Oberlin’s Queer Peers. “This bill would make Ohio a very inhospitable place for LGBTQ families.”
Reitz also disputed Sheets’ specific definition of the optimal environment for child-rearing.
“Since no one has shown that gay families are less able to raise children... there is no constitutionally legitimate reason the legislature can deny LGBTQ individuals and families the right to adopt,” said Reitz.
Others believe that House Bill 515 distracts legislators from more pressing state issues.
“There are so many important things that the state of Ohio has to deal with — education, jobs, long-term health of the state,” said Oberlin College James Monroe Professor of Politics and Law Ronald Kahn. “It’s disappointing that the state is spending time on this issue.”
Despite passionate advocates on both sides of the issue, House Bill 515
appears unlikely to make it any further in its legislation. Rep. Koziura, who
sits on the Rules Committee, noted that the Bill has yet to be referred to
Committee. House Bill 515 appears unlikely to ever reach the House floor —
let alone become law in Ohio.