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Bill to ban discrimination against LGBTQ Ohioans in employment and housing is introduced again

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Right now in Ohio, LGBTQ+ people — unlike minorities or people of religious faiths — are not included in protections from discrimination when it comes to employment, housing or public accommodations.

Some lawmakers have been trying to change that for years by pushing the Ohio Legislature to pass a bill known as the Fairness Act. It has now been reintroduced for the 11th time, amid a backlash of anti-LGBTQ bills and a culture war.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) has introduced the Fairness Act every legislative session since 2011. She said bipartisan support from lawmakers and the public overall has increased each year.

She said the legislation still has bipartisan sponsors this time around, but even with that, she knows passing it now will be a heavy lift. Antonio said Ohioans support protecting people from being fired, denied housing or other public accommodations based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Republican majority in the legislature is out of step with the people, the majority of people, in the state of Ohio,” Antonio said.

Antonio said Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, have been passing bills recently that take away LGBTQ+ rights.

“What we have is a very vocal minority that is trying to get spots on national media, and so they come up with very inflammatory legislation that is copycatted across the country. But I don’t think it’s reflective of the people of the state of Ohio,” Antonio said.

More than 1,300 Ohio businesses have joined Ohio Business Competes, a nonpartisan coalition of businesses that support nondiscrimination policies similar to those proposed in the Ohio Fairness Act. Recently, some businesses that have publicly embraced LGBTQ+ rights have found themselves on the receiving end of boycotts and retaliation from consumers.

Still, Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) says it hasn’t deterred them from supporting LGBTQ+ employees.

“There has been some kind of public reversal of some businesses in the state but what those businesses are not doing — they are not revoking their non-discrimination policies within the businesses. In fact, they know that here in Ohio — if they are going to have a home here in Ohio — they need to support the LGBTQ+ community because it is their workforce,” Skindell said.

Ohio is one of 27 states without laws protecting individuals from discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations due to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.