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Legislative Black Caucus introduces bill to remove slavery from Ohio constitution

May 25, 2016
Democratic Newsroom

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President and State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) and members of the OLBC today introduced a resolution to remove slavery references from the Ohio constitution, calling the references archaic and offensive to all Ohioans, including those whose ancestors were kidnapped and held captive as slaves.

“No slavery, no exceptions,” said Reece. “Over 150 years after our nation abolished slavery, there can be no acceptable circumstance for slavery in our state, and our constitution must reflect that. In 2016, this General Assembly should give Ohioans the opportunity to take slavery out of our state’s guiding document.”

Section six of the Ohio constitution’s Bill of Rights says “there shall be no slavery in this State; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.”

“Any form of slavery, regardless of the circumstance, is immoral and abhorrent and should not be condoned by the state constitution,” said State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “The people of Ohio should have the chance to remove the antiquated, offensive slavery reference from our state’s founding document.”

Should the resolution receive approval from three-fifths of both the House and Senate, a statewide proposal to remove the slavery reference from the state constitution would be put on the ballot this November.

“This issue is about more than language – it’s about our values and what we stand for as a state,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “A constitution is not just an arrangement of governing laws, but a set of fundamental principles that guides its people. Slavery has no rightful place in our state’s founding document.”  

The OLBC also announced they will hold their decennial convention, required by the caucus’ bylaws, from July 15 to 17 in Cincinnati.

“As we continue to grapple with modern day forms of slavery such as human trafficking, it is important that our state constitution does not condone any form of involuntary servitude,” said Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo).

“OLBC legislators will be introducing companion resolutions in both the House and the Senate that will remove the mentioning of slavery from the Ohio Constitution,” said Ohio Sen. and Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus). “The implementation of this legislation is critical as we attempt to move Ohio forward. Having the following six words, ‘unless for the punishment of crime’ stricken from the Constitution will help rid ourselves of any vestiges of our dark and brutal past. We cannot continue to allow this exception to remain in the Ohio Constitution and we will not allow ourselves to go backward. We will fight this issue until the victory is won.”