Home Social Justice Ohio representative introduces LGBT anti-discrimination bill for the third time

Ohio representative introduces LGBT anti-discrimination bill for the third time

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A bill introduced to the Ohio House for the third time aims to eliminate LGBT discrimination in both employment and housing.

Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood and the first openly gay lawmaker in the Ohio General Assembly, introduced the Ohio Fairness Act for the third time last Wednesday. She has introduced the bill to each legislature she has served in since becoming a representative in 2011.   

“Discrimination still exists in the state of Ohio, and even though we have had the landmark decision by the Supreme Court for marriage equality, the situation still exists,” Antonio said. “While someone from the gay community can legally marry the person that they love, they can be fired from their job, denied housing or denied any kind of participation or public accommodation.”

Others in the state agree that a problem still exists. In a press release in response to the reintroduction of the act, Alana Jochum, managing director of Equality Ohio, a nonprofit dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in Ohio, said that no one should be forced to experience discrimination.

“The vast majority of Ohioans agree,” Jochum said. “Nearly eight in 10 Ohioans support this. In fact, they’re shocked to learn that we don’t have a law like this protecting LGBT Ohioans in the first place.”

To protect those LGBT Ohioans, Antonio said the Fairness Act proposes simple changes. The Fairness Act proposes amendments to the Ohio civil rights codes that add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to already existing laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, sex or race.

Antonio hopes the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in June to legalize gay marriage nationally will help persuade her opponents to support the act the third time around, but she acknowledges there are still obstacles in her way.

“People don’t believe that it’s legally still possible to discriminate,” Antonio said. “People are unaware that discrimination exists in law.”

But it is more than just a misunderstanding about those in the LGBT community, Antonio added. She also believes her proposal must overcome the more conservative members of the majority Republican legislature.  

Antonio said those who are more conservative often disproportionately worry about economic costs of potential discrimination lawsuits on business more than about the issue of equality.   

“I think people go right to litigation, where I wish they would go to the fact that we should all enjoy equal civil rights,” Antonio said. “This is an issue of civil rights, not business.”

It is yet to be seen whether the third time is to be the charm for the Ohio Fairness Act; there is still plenty of discussion to be had within the House before a companion bill is released in the Senate.

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