Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Bill would erase race terms from law

By Shelley Davis
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - Calling the language intolerable, a Cincinnati lawmaker is attempting to remove references to "colored persons," "white persons," and "Negroes" from Ohio law. State Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, will introduce legislation today that he says will bring Ohio's law books into the 21st century.

"A lot of times when we change laws we might not always update the language used in the code," Mallory said Monday. "These terms are considered to be offensive and it just doesn't make sense in this day and age to have language like that in Ohio's laws."

The bill would amend the four sections of Ohio law that use these terms. References to "Negroes," used in explaining non-discriminatory hiring practices, would be changed to "African-Americans." Also, language that distinguishes between "colored persons" and "white persons" would be replaced with "discrimination on the basis of race."

Mallory was informed of the language by Jack Chin, a professor with the Urban Justice Institute at the University of Cincinnati. Chin also alerted Mallory that Ohio was the only state to never ratify the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal rights for Americans, regardless of race. The senator's bill to ratify the amendment passed the General Assembly in March.

Chin said about 15 states still use archaic terms when talking about race.

In Ohio law, the references are all in the context of civil rights or anti-discrimination laws, Chin said. One reference comes in a statute that bans discrimination in selling insurance to "colored people."

A similar bill in 1995 made language in the Ohio Revised Code more gender-neutral, Mallory said. It changed terms like "chairman" to "chairperson."

"With this being our bicentennial year, these are the perfect kinds of changes to make. It shows how much progress we've made over the last 200 years," Mallory said.

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