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LGBT anti-bias measure to be reintroduced in September
Cleveland--An LGBT anti-discrimination bill is set to be introduced in the state legislature in September, says an Equality Ohio director, and the lobbying group and its allies are now working to get sponsors for the measure in both parties.
The Equal Housing and Employment Act would outlaw discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity. State law presently covers race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or ancestry.
Bo Shuff, director of education and public policy for Equality Ohio, described the measure to about 50 people at an American Civil Liberties Union brown bag lunch lecture in Cleveland on July 18.
“People, we think, and it’s a crazy notion, should be judged by the work they do,” Shuff said.
Similar bills were introduced in the Ohio House and Senate in 2003 and 2005. Committees in both chambers heard testimony on the 2003 measures but took no further action.
Twenty other states have such laws on the books, as do 13 Ohio cities.
Passing a statewide Ohio measure, according to Shuff, is preferable to waiting for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to pass, for a number of reasons.
For one, the federal legislation only bars employment discrimination, and doesn’t cover housing or public accommodations like restaurants or hotels.
For another, Shuff brought up people’s reluctance to “make a federal case out of it,” explaining that pursuing a claim under ENDA would require filing suit in federal courts, an expensive prospect. Passing the state law would allow victims of discrimination to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Shuff explained that the Ohio Equal Housing and Employment Act would “level the playing field in your home and in your work.”
He pointed to his own experience as the partner of a FedEx employee. The company’s workers in California have domestic partner benefits because of local and state laws mandating them, but because he and his partner live in Ohio, Shuff cannot be covered by FedEx’s health plan.
Equality Ohio plans to deliver 10,000 postcards from voters urging passage of the law on the day that it is introduced in the legislature.
Shuff also brought up the results of a survey conducted by the Equality Ohio Education Fund last year in which two-thirds of Ohioans responded that employment anti-discrimination laws should cover LGBT people. Over 90 percent of respondents also favored hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, and just over half thought that couples should be able to form civil unions.