The Struggle For Equality Goes On
By Christopher Johnson
Presently, House Bill 176, the Equal Housing and Employment Act, sits in Ohio Senate President Bill Harris’ office collecting dust. Meanwhile gays that come to or stay in Ohio particularly to further their educations continue to jump ship upon graduation. I was never so aware of this than when my longtime friend Andrew Hyde, a former contestant on the CBS reality show The Amazing Race and longtime Aids Resource Center advocate for testing and HIV awareness, made the announcement that he would be leaving Ohio to seek a more equal life in Portland, Oregon with Eric Shamo, his new fiancé at the time.
When asked about Harris’ attempt at killing HB 176, Andrew said, “I cannot imagine any politician fighting against a measure that seeks to protect any of their state’s people. There is no justification for trying to stop this measure beyond homophobia. In our culture, racism and poor treatment of women or people with disabilities is completely unacceptable but for some reason it is still allowed to discriminate against a young professional, or a mother, or a senior citizen simply because they are gay. Bill Harris should be ashamed.”
Andrew went on to address whether he or Eric had ever fallen victim to discrimination in Ohio.
“We know that living in most parts of Ohio that we can be discriminated against through things like housing, adoption opportunities and marriage equality. We decided that in planning our future we wanted to live in a part of the country that treated all its citizens equally. Unfortunately, Ohio doesn’t.”
MORE ABOUT THE COUPLE
Andrew, 29, and Eric, 26, met through a mutual friend while Eric was an undergrad
in biochemistry at the University Of Dayton. Earlier this year, Eric graduated medical school at The Ohio State University. Choosing to become a doctor is a difficult and challenging path for anyone, especially those who are gay. It’s a greater challenge because it involves taking a residency somewhere that involves setting up a new life, family and perhaps a practice later on which is all dependant on whether or not the state you live in recognizes you as an equal person. Even so, Andrew and Eric felt the need to set a precedent for not only themselves, but for the friends they consider family in Ohio. On May 30, the couple tied the knot at Andrew’s church, Cross Creek Community Church in Centerville. In a state that currently does not recognize the union as anything at all, the friends and family of the couple know what it means regardless. It was a great idea to have the wedding here, but I also like to think of it as sort of an “in your face” gesture.
When I asked Andrew and Eric what the state of Oregon will provide that Ohio cannot, Andrew replied, “In Oregon, Eric and I can get a domestic partnership which helps us the same way it would a married couple with tax breaks and such in our state although we get no federal benefits. Ohio denies gay and lesbian citizens over a thousand benefits that married couples can attain.”
In addition, the couple decided to change their last names. They made a combination of both names Hyde and Shamo to make a new last name of Shayde. The wedding reception was held at Top of the Market, a romantic setting housed in the same building as 2nd Street Market in downtown Dayton. Notable reality stars that were present at the wedding and reception to show support included Eliza Orlins and Brian Corridan (Survivor) and Deana Housteau and Megan Linz (The Amazing Race).
MORE ABOUT HOUSE BILL 176
As Dr. and Mr. Shayde now reside in Portland, Oregon, the bill so many fought so much to have passed seems to have come to a standstill. According to www.OutLoudColumbus.com, the bill is still awaiting its committee hearing. The site makes claim that the bill hasn’t moved because Bill Harris (R-19th District) doesn’t think the bill is necessary. Whether this is true or not is, well, you be the judge.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
House Bill 176 should be important to everyone – not just the LGBT community. This bill gives the LGBT community simple rights in matters which we all seem to have fallen victim at some point in our lives. These rights also include simple everyday things a straight person may never think to be important. Currently in Ohio you can be removed from your position at work simply because of your sexuality. You can also be denied residency because of your sexuality. Imagine looking for your first apartment or moving out of your parents’ home so you can live with your new husband or wife and being denied everywhere you go because you are trying to rent a 1 bedroom apartment with two men. If you don’t think this happens think again. It happened to me to the extent that I finally rented a 2 bedroom unit and paid $200 more a month.
While this bill’s passing last fall in the Ohio House of Representatives is a huge deal in itself, and most LGBT folk are happy about it passing, obviously it does the community at large no good unless it is law. It has been nearly a year since it passed and nothing has been done to take the bill to the next level of having it become an ORC (Ohio Revised Code). We need to make sure that all of this hard work wasn’t done for nothing. Send Bill Harris a letter stating how much we would appreciate his cooperation in holding a committee hearing for HB 176. If this sounds like something that would interest you, visit www.OutLoudColumbus.com and click on the Ohio HB 176 link. Read their simple instructions on how to send a hand written letter, and also take note of the good advice on how to get your mother to send a letter as well.
MORE TO COME
While HB 176 was a huge milestone, it isn’t everything. Gays still will not have the
rights that Andrew and Eric left the state to seek. Gays can’t get married here, and if we do, it means nothing on paper. Many companies are starting to offer same sex couple benefits, which leaves me to wonder why the state of Ohio can’t recognize that the benefits outweigh the bad. Gays still can’t file our taxes jointly no matter how long partners have been together. I hope this changes; if not, many more gays will leave the state.
THE PROP 8 CONNECTION
Prop 8, put on the ballot in California during the 2008 presidential election, was a bill designed to outlaw the
previous California law that made it legal for LGBT people to marry. When Prop 8 passed, it made gay marriage illegal in California once again. Recently, the courts ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, which means in the foreseeable future LGBT people will be able to marry again in the state of California. While the ruling doesn’t affect us here in Ohio, it does show what direction the country is moving in.
Reach DCP freelance writer Christopher Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org