Dear Representative Oelslager (R-North Canton), Representative Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp.), and Representative Merrin (R-Monclova) –
I am writing to let you know that you have—with 100% certainty—done actual harm with your energy spent to retain “husband and wife” in Ohio’s adoption language.
Though 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling—establishing marriage equality as the law of the land—ensured legally married couples in Ohio may adopt, you have decided to direct your energy into perpetuating your fantasy where LGBTQ+ Ohioans are not full and contributing citizens of this state deserving of equal treatment.
Despite Representative Oelslager’s appalling statement to reporters last week that the adoption language is just “semantics,” please know that your actions represent far more than words on a page. Given the press coverage that this has received—and was inevitably going to receive—here is just some of what you have caused:
- There are LGBTQ+ youth in Ohio who will see your energy spent invalidating their existence and retreat further into isolation and depression, exacerbated by living in a state that doesn’t support them. During a global pandemic when so many LGBTQ+ youth are struggling to bridge the gap to find resources, you have made that divide even wider. That is on you.
- There are LGBTQ+ prospective parents in Ohio who will now pause, who will now feel a twinge of doubt, who will now let a slight question enter into their decision to pursue a family. Regardless of the fact that your position does not reflect the actual legal precedent, you have created a situation that endangers the matching of children who need supportive homes with the loving families who are stepping up to provide them. That is on you.
- There are LGBTQ+ Ohioans who will see this energy spent invalidating their love and assume that their elected representatives do not in any way have their backs, do not support them, and then withdraw from civic engagement. That is on you.
- There are LGBTQ+ individuals and allies living outside of Ohio who will now cancel any intention they may have had of moving to our state. In his push to attract more people to Ohio, Governor DeWine recently said, “Ohio is a welcoming place. I don’t care who you are, we want you to come to Ohio. It’s a progressive state.” You are doing everything you can possibly do to prove him wrong. That is on you.
But lest all your ripple effects look negative, I will credit you with one positive result of your “semantics”:
- You have strengthened my resolve on the path I now walk to adopt a child. I already stood on solid ground in my journey to navigate the adoption process here in Ohio, but you somehow made the terrain underneath me a bit more firm, my vision a bit more focused, and my determination a bit more fierce. To be clear, I didn’t need the extra push to fulfill this dream, but please know that your attempts to declare adoption only to be for a husband and a wife convinced me even more that adoption is most certainly for this LGBTQ+ single Ohioan.
Personal tale aside, I urge you to take stock in the harm you have undoubtedly done here. The words that you weave into Ohio’s legislative fabric are more than semantics. Your wholly unnecessary efforts to impose your homophobic will upon our state and my LGBTQ+ siblings have a real and true effect.
And yet, I—perhaps foolishly—still cling to a shred of hope that you will one day cease these anti-LGBTQ+ attacks and embrace being representatives for ALL Ohioans. Please do better.
Ken Schneck, Editor