Gay rights mean equal rights

Tuesday marked a milestone in Ohio history. The Ohio House of Representatives passed the first gay rights bill in the state, which would block housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But the landmark bill faces an uphill battle as it moves on to the Republican-controlled Senate, where some legislators have already voiced opposition to what they say is an unnecessary bill.

Unnecessary? That word should never coexist with the phrase “equal rights.”

Fortunately, others in the state have taken a more 21st century view on this matter. Eleven four-year public universities and 17 cities in Ohio already have anti-discrimination policies in effect, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Kent State even approved domestic partner benefits last year.

Realistically, it will be a miracle if this bill becomes law after its time in the Senate. After all, it took Democratic control of the House for the bill to even get a vote on the floor. But we wouldn’t be doing our civic duty if we neglected to use this 400-word editorial space to urge its approval in the Senate.

In a perfect world, the legislature shouldn’t have to pass anti-discrimination laws if we all adhered to basic kindergarten teachings: “Be nice to and respect others.” But since discrimination runs rampant in society, the government needs to step in.

Now is the time for the Ohio Senate to put religion and politics aside and do the right thing. What if this was your son or daughter having trouble finding a job or being banned from living somewhere? Would you block their right to happiness?

Above all, this bill is about human beings – not taxes, health care or education reform. True, those affect people also, but not in a personal attack kind of way. This bill stands to give equal rights to people you pass on the street every day.

Fusion, the on-campus LGBT issues magazine, is selling T-shirts with a quote that puts it best: “I don’t think anyone should assume a person is straight anymore.”

Legislators, do your fellow neighbors and Ohio citizens justice by passing this bill. Let Ohio help lead the way in the fight for equal rights. We’re lagging at the moment.

And students, get involved to help make the miracle happen. We’re by far the most tolerant generation, so let’s put our values into action by writing our legislators, attending rallies, etc. Silence doesn’t promote change.