Tipping point

Once social change occurs, progress on gay rights may be swift, in Ohio and across the nation


Until just a few years ago, even liberal politicians often ran from gay rights. The issue scared and alienated many Americans, and most politicians didn’t think it was worth risking their careers to endorse nondiscrimination against gays.

Because of popular culture and demographics — virtually every family or extended family has an openly gay member — the tipping point has come. Just 15 years ago, Matthew Shepard was beaten into a coma and hung on a barbed-wire fence to die for being gay and walking into a bar.

Now, we hear conservative Republicans senators saying: My son is gay. I think gay rights are Christian. I favor same-sex marriage.

According to a recent poll, 79 percent of Ohioans say they favor legislation that would ban discrimination against gays. Just a few years ago, such a result would have been unimaginable.

Human rights activists, organized under the banner of Freedom to Marry Ohio, are collecting signatures to place a referendum on a statewide ballot that would lift the state’s constitutional ban on gay unions and legalize same-sex civil marriage. Churches would not be compelled to perform such weddings.

At the same time, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers proposes a measure that would outlaw discrimination in housing and hiring based on sexual orientation. The legislation may not pass; similar bills have failed before. But the last attempt came close, and if the bill does not pass this session, it will in time.

Lawmakers say gay rights are less and less a divisive partisan issue. To a large extent, that’s a matter of generations: To many young people, gays are simply part of the world and part of life. Assuring that they have equal rights is only fair.

No one should lose a job or an apartment because of the person he or she loves. To more and more Ohioans, that is common sense. It’s rational and humane. This legislation deserves to pass.