Cincinnati inched closer to equality after moving forward Monday with a measure that would allow city employees in same-sex and other partnerships to receive health insurance benefits.
With a push by Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay councilman in Cincinnati, the measure passed the finance committee with the support of all council members except Charlie Winburn, who abstained.
The approval came after a city report found that same-sex benefits could cost as much as $543,000 a year if 77 partners took advantage of the benefits.
The report suggested City Council mimic a system already in place in Columbus, which requires partners to prove financial interdependency and that they have been together for six months.
If the measure passes City Council, Cincinnati would be more caught up with other cities, states, countries and companies that already grant health benefits to same-sex couples. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimated that 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to same-sex couples, including Procter and Gamble and Fifth Third Bank.
Altogether, it seems like a small step toward equality. What’s unfortunate is none of it would be required if same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio. If it was, same-sex couples could get marriage benefits, including health-care coverage.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved the petition language for an amendment that would overturn Ohio’s 2004 ban on gay marriage. The new amendment would define marriage as “a union of two consenting adults, regardless of gender.”
The amendment now moves forward to the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved, it will then require 385,253 signatures from registered voters and, finally, voter approval.
Ohio banned same-sex marriage in 2004 with a majority vote of 62 percent. But Ian James, co-founder of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, told the Huffington Post that he is optimistic things will be different this time, citing recent polls that show the nation is moving toward support of gay marriage.
Connecticut will soon join the list of states that have ended the use of capital punishment.
In an 86-63 vote, legislators in Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday night. The state Senate approved the measure April 5, in a 20-16 vote.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk, probably sometime this week. A similar bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, in 2009.
Connecticut’s law is prospective in nature, and won’t affect the sentences of the 11 people currently on the state’s death row.
In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty, according to CNN. California voters will decide the issue in November.
Other states that have abolished capital punishment are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, a man who spent 21 years on Ohio’s death row until he was exonerated in 2010 will speak tonight at a forum in Clifton.
Joe D’Ambrosio will discuss his experience and why he believes the death penalty should be scrapped at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, located at 328 W. McMillan St. D’Ambrosio will be joined by the Rev. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who worked to get him released.
D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors withheld 10 pieces of evidence that would have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial and implicated another suspect in the crime, a judge ruled in March 2010.
D’Ambrosio is the 140th Death Row exoneration in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in Ohio.
This week’s Porkopolis column looks at a report from Amnesty International about the use of capital punishment throughout the world, and how the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that still condones the practice.
University of Cincinnati and Miami University student organizations will hold rallies at 5 p.m. Thursday in response to the March 24 assault of two students — one from UC and one from Miami — on the Miami campus. The events are meant to show support for GLBT people and call for an end to hate crimes.
Miami University student Michael Bustin and a male friend were reportedly walking home from a drag show when someone yelled a derogatory slur at them. Bustin's friend was then attacked by four men who also reportedly assaulted Bustin when he tried to help, according to WLWT-TV. The two men had been holding hands during their walk home. Miami University sent a memo to the community and reached out to Bustin soon afterward.
The rallies’ Facebook page says the other man was a University of Cincinnati student. The police have released a sketch of one of the accused attackers and are seeking the public’s help to find those involved.
Both events will begin at 5 p.m. Those attending the Miami rally are encouraged to wear "Love is the New Label/White Out Hate" shirts or just white T-shirts or tops. After the rally, participants will line up holding hands in a demonstration of solidarity and to show that “no one deserves to be hurt for showing affection.”
More from the rallies’ Facebook page: “We, the students of the LGBTQA alliances of Miami University and University of Cincinnati, stand united in our demand for a safe places to live, learn, work and show affection. It is unacceptable for anyone to be assaulted, but it is especially repulsive for the victims to be targeted because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or any other classification.”
The Miami rally will take place at the Phi Delt Gates on the Miami Campus, while the UC event will take place at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Clifton Avenue. The events are being organized by Miami Spectrum and UC Alliance.
For more information, click here or search on Facebook: “Emergency Action: Miami & UC Unite Against Hate!"
Human rights activist and author Kerry Kennedy, one of the late Robert F. Kennedy’s daughters, will be in Cincinnati Friday to speak about women who create social change.
Kennedy will appear at an event sponsored by the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati. The speech will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Millennium Hotel, 150 W. Fifth St., in downtown Cincinnati.
Tickets to the event cost $25 and are available online in advance or at the door.
She will present a speech entitled, “The Power of One: Stories of Inspiration from Women on the Cutting-Edge of Social Change.”
Kennedy, 52, is president of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C. Also, she is chairwoman of the Amnesty International USA Leadership Council.
Kennedy is author of the best-selling books, Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk about Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning, along with Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World.
She is the seventh of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children. From 1990-2005, she was married to Andrew Cuomo, the current New York governor and son of Mario Cuomo.
Founded in 1915, Woman’s City Club has worked to foster civic reform and social justice in Cincinnati. Among its many activities, the club helped establish the city’s first race relations committee and held study circles on various issues to encourage greater civic participation.
A rally will be held at Fountain Square today to commemorate the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and to demand a thorough investigation of the incident.
The event begins at 5 p.m. and attendees are asked to bring signs that aren’t posted on sticks, to comply with a local law, and also to wear hooded jackets. Martin, 17, was wearing a “hoodie” when George Zimmerman allegedly killed him Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.
Rallies have been held across the nation during the past week to protest the handling of Martin’s case. Many of the participants have worn hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teenager, often carrying signs that state, “I am Trayvon Martin.”
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory posted a similar photograph on his Facebook page over the weekend. It’s unclear if Mallory plans to attend today’s rally.
Among the groups organizing the rally are Occupy The Hood and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.
Zimmerman, 28, who says he belongs to a neighborhood watch program in his gated community, began following Martin at about 7 p.m. for what he described in a 911 call as “suspicious behavior.” Martin was walking back to his father’s condominium after buying iced tea for himself and Skittles for his soon-to-be stepbrother.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, on drugs or something," Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher.
Some sort of encounter occurred that resulted in Martin’s death. Sanford Police didn’t arrest Zimmerman, saying that it appeared he acted in self-defense.
Sanford Police accepted Zimmerman’s version of events at face value. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him,” Sanford Police Chief Billy Lee told ABC News earlier this month.
After the incident became publicized through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, public outcry grew. More than 2 million people have signed an online petition demanding justice, and the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have launched investigations.
The wife of an Israeli diplomat in India and her driver were injured Monday when the car they were traveling in was bombed, while another bomb was defused outside an Israeli embassy in Tblisi, Georgia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran, which he called “the greatest exporter of terror in the world.”
Ohioans to Stop Executions and other human rights groups are asking Gov. John Kasich to halt any further executions of inmates until the Ohio Supreme Court completes its review of the state’s death penalty process.
The groups, which include the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) in Cincinnati, say the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to review an August 2011 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That means the exoneration of Death Row inmate Joe D’Ambrosio is upheld.