When Governor DeWine’s budget—House Bill 110—was introduced on February 16, it included a three-word change with major implications for LGBTQ+ couples in Ohio.
Embedded on page 606 of the 2057-page document, under the section, “The following persons may adopt,” the words “husband and wife” have been replaced with “legally married couple.”
When HB 110 was introduced to the House on April 21, that proposed change had been dropped. The language will revert back to “husband and wife,” a phrase that appears four other times in the 2759-page document that was passed by the House.
During the proceedings, Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) proposed an amendment that would restore the “legally married couple” phrase. Republicans rejected the proposal.
“The fact that we couldn’t do a simple name change is very frustrating and plays into whether or not Ohio truly is an inclusive state where people want to move to or to stay in,” Sweeney told ideastream.
Sweeney then joined Republicans in voting to pass the budget. The budget now heads to the Ohio Senate for approval.
The Ohio Capital Journal obtained the budget amendment requests and found two Republican state representatives asked that the “legally married couple” reference be deleted and “husband and wife” be reinserted: Reps. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp.) and Derek Merrin (R-Monclova).
The “husband and wife” language does not prohibit LGBTQ+ Ohioans from adopting. 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling—establishing marriage equality as the law of the land—ensured legally married couples may adopt.
When asked why Republicans amended the language despite it carrying no legal weight, House Finance Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) acknowledged the lack of standing, but that “husband and wife” was language that his colleagues simply wanted.
“It’s a semantic issue. It does not prevent adoptions (for) same-sex couples,” said Oeslager. “It’s just simply a semantic definition so to speak, or semantic statement that was in the code. It was just something some of our members wanted and part of my job as Finance Chairman, and the Speaker’s job, is to listen to our membership … our members feel strongly about it and that’s why we kept it in.”
Adoption professionals also want Ohioans to know that you do not have to be in a relationship in order to adopt.
“We want to remind people that single dads and single moms adopt all the time. You don’t have to be a legally married couple to have a beautiful and successful adoption experience,” Molly Rampe, Founder & Adoption Assessor at Choice Network in Worthington, told The Buckeye Flame in February.