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NRL News
Page 8
February/March 2010
Volume 37
Issue 2-3

Outcry Convinces Ohio House Speaker to
Allow Recognition of Oratory Contest Winner

BY Liz Townsend

Citing the “politically sensitive” issue of abortion, Speaker Armond Budish initially refused to allow Elisabeth Trisler, winner of the 2009 NRLC Oratory Contest, to be presented with an honorary resolution on the floor of the Ohio House of Representatives. After a massive outcry from pro-life and pro-family groups and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, Budish reversed his decision and allowed Trisler to receive her honor February 17.

Trisler, 19, appeared on both the House and Senate floors. “I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has made this possible,” she said to House members, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “I’m extremely humbled, and I hope to see you all in the future.”

Pro-life groups said they were glad Budish did the right thing and allowed the honor. “Blocking speech because you don’t like what someone is saying or what they stand for goes against the very fabric of who we are as Americans,” said Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Mike Gonidakis. “And, while the speaker got there the hard way, at least he got there.”

Trisler won the Oratory Contest at the NRL Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, last June. High school juniors and seniors write and present original pro-life speeches, with the winners of state competitions advancing to the national level.

According to Catholic News Agency, Trisler described her speech as addressing “Truth”: “‘What is the truth about abortion?’ she continued. Looking at ‘the hard, cold facts’ demonstrates that abortion is ‘dangerous,’ said Trisler. ‘That’s what I wrote about.’”

Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) authored a resolution praising Trisler for winning the contest and scheduled a presentation on the House floor for February 3. Such resolutions are common in the state House, given to sports teams and other Ohio citizens to honor their achievements, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

However, pro-abortion Speaker Budish (D-Beachwood) decided that Trisler’s subject matter was too controversial to be honored on the House floor, and instead would only allow the proclamation to be mailed to her. “You want to save these occasions for times when the House can jointly celebrate their constituents’ achievements without the undertone of politics,” Budish spokesman Keary McCarthy told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The reaction to Budish’s decision was swift and very negative. “Surely Speaker Budish can put aside his partisanship for 10 minutes to honor the accomplishments of talented and optimistic teenage girl,” said Gonidakis. “Perhaps his real message to Ohio’s teens is that excelling in public speaking isn’t worth being honored if their views are different than his.”

The ACLU of Ohio echoed this sentiment, releasing a statement urging Budish to allow Trisler to be honored in the statehouse. “Legislators should pay tribute to those who excel in their field, regardless of their political views or affiliations,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “Perhaps what is more troubling is the message this sends to Ms. Trisler and other young activists like her. Instead of teaching young people that the answer is to silence those who disagree with us, legislators should be modeling how to address difficult issues thoughtfully and listen respectfully to others.”