An effort to include sexual orientation into anti-discrimination language in Ohio entered the Senate yet again, making the second such effort in currently in the General Assembly.
State Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, presented the Ohio Fairness Act as Senate Bill 119 on Dec. 7 in the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
The bill is modeled after a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bostock v. Clayton County, and would include sexual orientation and gender identity in sex discrimination law “without creating new protected classes or infringing on religious liberty,” Antonio told the committee.
“It is a fair proposal that will simply give people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender the same freedom to work, the same freedom to live where they choose and the same full, equal participation in society just as anyone else in Ohio,” she said on Wednesday.
The state legislation would add to 21 other states with similar anti-discrimination language, and more than 30 municipalities in the state who have passed non-discrimination ordinances, according to Equality Ohio.
Antonio pointed to bipartisan support for the measure in the form of Gov. Mike DeWine’s 2019 executive order maintaining former Gov. John Kasich’s non-discrimination policy including gender identity and sexual orientation.
The executive order specifically applies to state agencies, but bars discrimination “on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, national origin (ancestry), military status (past, present or future), disability, age (40 years or older), status as a parent during pregnancy and immediately after the birth of a child, status as a parent of a young child, status as a foster parent, genetic information, or sexual orientation” in everything from hiring to eligibility for in-service training.
Antonio’s bill follows the introduction of the Ohio Fairness Act in the House as House Bill 208 last week.
State Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, and state Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, brought the bill along with the support of the business community, something the bill didn’t have in its earliest versions.
In pushing the need for more of his GOP colleagues to join the effort, Hillyer said the issue unnecessarily “divides” the caucus, and should be passed so the legislature can move on to other issues.
“Let’s go fight our real battles that we want to argue about and hit each other over the head with all day, but let’s leave this issue off the table and make Ohio open for business,” Hillyer said in House committee on November 30.
This story was originally published by Ohio Capital Journal and is republished here with permission.
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