Ohio House Democratic women say the state needs to do more to help all women

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — An old cigarette ad from the 1960s that said, “you’ve come a long way, baby” might still ring true in some ways. But Democratic women who serve in the Ohio House say when it comes to women living in the state, they still have a long way to go.

The representatives used Women’s History Month to highlight legislation they believe the Republican-dominated legislature needs to pass to even the playing field for women.

Ohio does not have a law that guarantees women equal pay for equal work. An equal pay bill has been introduced several times; the current one hasn’t had a single hearing. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said failure by lawmakers to pass the bill is hurting many.

“Women are more likely to live in poverty. You have children in this state who are more likely to live in poverty. Right now, one in six Ohio children lives in poverty. We can do better than that,” Russo said. “We are leaving economic opportunity and economic growth on the table if we do not address this pay issue.”

Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) called out local laws that need to be scrapped – like ones dealing with braided hair like hers.

“Depending on what school you go to within the state of Ohio, this would be considered as illegal. It would not be considered as a protected class,” Brent said. “Who would have ever thought that a braid in your head would be considered as illegal.”

Brent’s bill on braided and natural hair has had three hearings.

Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) said “extremists“ in the General Assembly have been able to block efforts to pass her bill to make Ohio law comply with the reproductive rights constitutional amendment voters passed in November with Issue 1. The bill has yet to be heard in committee. Liston said Ohio women still cannot access the abortion and reproductive care they are entitled to because of laws that are now unconstitutional.

We in the House Democratic Caucus have heard the voters in Ohio and are working to make sure women in our state continue to have reproductive freedom and the opportunities it affords,” Liston said.

Rep. Michele Grim (D-Toledo) said the Senate still needs to pass a House bill she backs to increase the sentence on felony domestic violence, and to pass a red-flag law she’s sponsoring to keep guns away from people who are likely to be a danger to themselves or others.

“Every woman should have the freedom to walk down the street without the fear that her former abusive partner will harm her with a firearm. Every woman should have the dignity to terminate a lease shared with an abuser and move to a safe environment without fear of financial repercussions,” Grim said. “Every woman should have the opportunity to live a full and complete life in our state, rest assured in the knowledge that as legislators, we value her life more than the right of her abusers to own a gun.”

That bill to create an extreme rush protection order has had one hearing. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether a person can be legally required to turn over their guns before a conviction.

The Democratic women said they plan to make these issues a focus as they campaign this fall. And they said they want to make sure voters know they are trying to pass these pieces of legislation in a Republican-dominated Ohio legislature.

A spokesman for House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said the office would not comment on this story.