Thursday, June 26, 2003

Ohio Senate passes bill to remove offensive language from lawbooks

By Jordan Gentile
Enquirer Columbus Bureau


COLUMBUS - A bill to remove racially offensive terms such as "colored persons" and "Negroes" from Ohio's lawbooks unanimously passed the Ohio Senate Wednesday.

An 1889 reference to "colored persons and white persons" will be replaced with the word "race" in one statute. Two references to "Negro" - appearing in laws drafted in 1935 and 1967 - would be replaced with "African-American." Another reference to "Negro" used to distinguish between racial and ethnic groups will be deleted.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, said he was surprised to discover these terms still exist in the Ohio Revised Code.

"I'm glad the Senate agrees that language in the Revised Code needs to be such that no one in Ohio is offended by it," Mallory said.

State Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, the No. 2-ranking Republican in the House, is expected to move Mallory's bill through the chamber when lawmakers return in the fall.

"Whether people believe (racism) is real or perceived, it is certainly a major issue, and we know that just by looking at what has happened in Cincinnati," Cates said.

Mallory was made aware of the references by Professor Jack Chin of the Urban Justice Institute at the University of Cincinnati.

Last year, Chin notified Mallory of Ohio's 19th-century action to withdraw its ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The General Assembly responded this spring by voting to ratify the amendment, which guarantees equal protection to all, regardless of race.

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