The Ohio Constitution display at the Ohio Statehouse. (Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau)

Lawmaker Wants Slavery Clause Removed From Ohio’s Constitution

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Ohio’s constitution bans slavery except for one reason. And at least one Black lawmaker wants that exception stripped from the state’s governing document.

Democratic Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) said the clause that allows slavery as the punishment for a crime needs to be removed from the state constitution.

When the Ohio Constitution was ratified in 1851, it included this clause: “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.”

Thomas says there is no excuse for that language in this day and age.

“What legitimate reason would you have that exception for unless you planned to use it for Ohio’s future history?” Thomas asks.

Thomas said lawmakers would have to put the change before voters and that should happen sooner rather than later.

The Senate is planning to meet monthly, but the House isn’t scheduled to return to Columbus until September.