Currently winding its way through the Ohio legislature is the Equal Housing and Employment Act, known in the House as HB176. It almost hurts to type the words, but in my state it would be legal for my boss to fire me expressly and solely because I’m gay. Additionally, I could be kicked out of my apartment expressly and solely because I’m gay. It’s a horribly backward scenario, one that the Ohio Congress can fix with HB176.
The Ohio House recently heard testimony from a variety of individuals in favor of HB176. These included leaders from both civil rights and housing associations, a woman who was indeed denied a job because she’s a lesbian, and Bruce Ough, resident Bishop of the West Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Their testimony can be found at Do What’s Right Ohio (which decided to post everything as pdfs for some weird reason), but I wanted to post an excerpt of Bishop Ough’s testimony here.
Last year, with the election of President Obama, the world watched with awe and hope as our great country, once again, demonstrated the dynamic strength and vitality of our Constitution – a Constitution whose basic tenets are that all people are created equal and, under the law, are to be treated equally. Our Ohio State Constitution enshrines these same ideals and inalienable rights. We are slowly, but unmistakably, moving toward the full equality and robust justice our forefathers and foremothers envisioned for every citizen of this country and this state. It is time for Ohio to take the next step in this steady march toward justice and liberty for all. It is time for Ohio specifically and unequivocally to prohibit housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is time for Ohio fully to protect its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. It is time for Ohio to honor our Constitution and trust its inherent truths and explicit liberties. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said in reference to the United States Constitution: “It is time to take the thin paper and turn it into thick action.” With the passage of HB176, we take another step of turning that thin paper into thick action – action that will protect the rights of Ohio citizens who have been discriminated against for too long.
This is the moment, out of our love for God and love for neighbor, to do no harm and to do good. House Bill 176 will do great good. It will put an end to the debilitating fear, deplorable discrimination and despicable harm currently experienced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
As people of faith, we United Methodists are in a position, and have the moral responsibility to do good. I call upon our state legislators to do the same: ‘to do good’ and to act now. It is time “to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) “It is time to take the thin paper and turn it into thick action.” It is time to pass HB176.
It’s rare lately that I’m what you’d call “proud” to be a Methodist. My home church, absolutely. I’m a member of a wonderful congregation with a tremendously supportive pastor. Trust me, I examine this over and over. And over.
But to be proud to call myself a Methodist? That doesn’t happen very often. We have a lot of problems, and we’re still actively doing damage to the LGBT community.
So this pride in my denomination, the knowledge that we’re on the right side, is a good and forgotten feeling. Thanks to Bishop Ough for letting me feel it again.