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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 11, 2007

Over half the nation will be covered by an equality law

Almost a quarter of Ohio included;
TG measures will protect a third of U.S.

When the governors of three states sign new equal rights laws as expected soon, over half the people in the nation will be covered by one that includes sexual orientation.

Almost a quarter of Ohio’s population will be among them, although neither state nor federal nondiscrimination laws protect lesbians and gays here.

In addition, a third of the U.S. population will be covered by a measure that includes transgendered people, including some Ohioans.

In the last few weeks, legislatures in Oregon, Iowa and Colorado have passed statewide LGBT equal rights laws, bringing to 20 the number of states that have done so. All three state governors have said they will sign.

Most of these are broad measures covering housing, public accommodations, loans, education and other areas. The Colorado law and one in Nevada are limited to employment only.

Following the practice since the late 1990s, the three new state laws include transgender people, either with the words “gender identity” or by defining “sexual orientation” to include transgender status. With these, a dozen states and the District of Columbia include transgender protections along with sexual orientation.

The Vermont legislature voted last week to add gender identity to its equality law, which would bring this number to 13. Gov. Jim Douglas is reportedly willing to sign it, but he vetoed a similar measure last year.

The United States has about 300 million people; 299.4 million according to a 2006 Census Bureau estimate. The states with sexual orientation anti-bias laws, along with D.C., hold 45% of this population. The ones that cover transgender people have 28% of the population, again with D.C.

However, in the 30 states without a law, a growing number of people are covered by local equal rights ordinances. There are close to 200 of these, including almost all of the nation’s largest cities.

Eighty-six of the local codes also include transgender people.

Many of these local measures are in states with state laws. Outside those states, a few more are in cities located in counties that also have one, such as Key West in Monroe County, Florida.

Counting only the freestanding localities produces 78 that cover sexual orientation, of which 48 include transgender people, either with “gender identity” or some other language.

Adding these local populations to the state figures gives us over half--53%--of the nation’s people covered by a “sexual orientation” law and over a third--35%--by a transgender one.

2.6 million Ohioans are covered

While there is no state nondiscrimination law, 32 Ohio cities and villages have ordinances that cover gay and lesbian residents and two of these, Toledo and Cincinnati, include transgender people.

One city, Westlake, has a 1997 statement by its law director that the existing fair housing ordinance applies to gays and lesbians. Canton’s law director says that its job bias measure will be enforced to include transgender people.

Summit and Cuyahoga counties, the city of Whitehall and the village of Lordstown have equal job measures for public employees only. Dayton reportedly has a policy that does the same thing, but nothing appears in the city ordinances.

Codes in a dozen Ohio localities cover areas from housing discrimination to employment and public accommodation, and one city will register domestic partnerships. The protections for residents range from the Westlake opinion to a unique 1996 Cleveland ordinance making job discrimination a criminal--not civil--offense.

Another 20 towns are much narrower in scope, focusing on things like parade permits or cable TV franchises.

The combined population of the Ohio cities whose “sexual orientation” ordinances apply to their residents--not just city employees--is 2,649,119. That’s almost a quarter--23%--of the state’s population of 11,478,006. The two cities that include transgender people have 5.3% of the state population.

Ignoring the narrow measures and counting only the ones on housing, public accommodation or employment leaves just over a sixth of Ohioans covered, 17.76%.

Three Ohio cities once passed ordinances only to have them removed by voters. An Athens measure passed in 1989 was repealed by voters the same year, but a new measure was enacted nine years later. Wooster’s 1990 ordinance was repealed by voters that year and has never been restored.

Most famous of the three is Cincinnati, whose 1992 measure was voided a year later when voters amended the charter to forbid it. City council repealed the ordinance in 1995, but enacted a new one last year after voters repealed the charter amendment in 2004.

Sources: News reports of measures passing, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal Defense and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. State and U.S. populations are 2006 Census estimates; city ones are 2005 Census estimates except New Orleans, which the agency recalculated post-Katrina in July, 2006.


Local Ohio ordinances

The Ohio cities that have local housing, employment or public accommodations ordinances covering their residents are shown in order of enactment. Below them are the 20 “minor” codes, followed by the job bias measures for public workers only.

1. Yellow Springs, enacted May 21, 1979: Public employment, private employment, public accommodation, housing, credit, union practices.

2. Oberlin, early 1980s: Housing, public accommodation. City workers added in fall 1993.

3. Columbus, August 1984: Housing, public accommodation. Private employment added in June, 1992. Also public employment, education, credit, ethnic intimidation.

4. Cleveland, March 23, 1994: Employment, public accommodation, housing, union practices, ethnic intimidation. Public and private employment discrimination made a misdemeanor crime on December 24, 1996, the only such ordinance in the nation.

5. Cleveland Heights, January, 1995: Public employment, housing, city contracts. Domestic partner benefits for city employees added in 2002. Domestic partner registry approved by voters November 3, 2003, the nation’s only voter-initiated one and the only such registry in Ohio.

6. North Olmsted, 1996: Housing.

7. Lakewood, 1997: Housing. Ethnic intimidation added in December 2000.

8. Athens, 1998: New measure to replace one passed and repealed in 1989 covers housing, public employment, public accommodation and ethnic intimidation.

9. Toledo, December 18, 1998: Public and private employment, public accommodation, housing, union practices, ethnic intimidation. The first Ohio measure to include gender identity.

10. Shaker Heights, February 27, 2006: Housing.

11. Cincinnati, March 15, 2006: Replaces 1992 ordinance voided by now-repealed Article 12; protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents in housing, employment and public accommodation.

12. Canton, March 20, 2006: Includes “sexual orientation” in employment and union practices, including the use of employment agencies that discriminate. Law director says “gender” will be enforced to include transgender.

Minor city codes

A search of 124 Ohio municipal codes published online by the Conway Greene Co. of Cleveland turned up 16 more cities and villages that include “sexual orientation” or “sexual preference” in an ordinance that applies to residents. A Google search of the two phrases with “codified ordinances” and “Ohio” revealed another four.

However, these measures are very limited in scope.

A half-dozen of them are parade and public assembly codes that appear to be derived from model language provided by the International Municipal Law Association. They bar discrimination in issuing parade permits by a list of factors that include sexual orientation.

The localities with these are:

Blue Ash, adopted 1-11-01

Canal Winchester, 7-6-99

Cuyahoga Falls, 3-27-00

Hamilton, 5-26-04

Highland Hills, 12-6-99

Sheffield Village, 5-12-03

Ten cities bar discrimination in cable TV service. These ordinances are also very similar to each other and all but two--Highland Hills and Millersburg--use the phrase “sexual preference.” They are:

Bedford Heights, 5-16-00

Garfield Heights

Highland Heights, 11-11-97

Highland Hills, 7-16-01

Independence, 12-9-97

Lyndhurst, 5-5-97

Mayfield Village, 9-18-00

Millersburg, 11-13-01

Oakwood, 3-28-00

Strongsville, 12-21-98

Dayton bars discrimination in “sexual preference” by any utility using city right-of-way, as do Upper Arlington and Westlake.

Gahanna has a charter article prohibiting city officials from discriminating in their duties.

Springfield requires that mediation services be provided regardless of sexual orientation.

Ohio has over a thousand municipalities, and only a minority of them have ordinances that are searchable online. Others may have adopted minor measures similar to the ones above.

Public worker job bias

In addition to the ordinances covering residents, five more Ohio localities have job bias protections for public employees only:

Cuyahoga County, 12-21-81

Summit County, “sexual preference,” 5-7-01

Whitehall, “sexual preference,” 12-21-93

Lordstown, 8-6-01

Granville includes sexual orientation in a 2003 ordinance against workplace harassment among city employees--but not the one on city job discrimination.

Dayton reportedly has a city worker job bias policy that includes sexual orientation, but nothing in the ordinances online.

State laws cluster in groups

State laws group in four geographical areas: the Northeast including all of New England with New York, New Jersey and Maryland; the three West Coast states plus Nevada and Hawaii; a Midwest cluster with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa; and pair of mountain neighbors, Colorado and New Mexico.

The 20 states with laws, plus the District of Columbia, are:

1. Wisconsin, 1982

2. Massachusetts, 1989

3. Hawaii, 1991, employment only; housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity added 2005; measure adding gender identity to job law was vetoed at the same time; sexual orientation and gender identity added to public accommodation law in 2006.

4. Connecticut , 1991

5. New Jersey, 1992; transgender people added 2006.

6. Vermont, 1992; gender identity added by 2007 bill, still awaiting governor’s signature

7. California, 1992; gender identity added 2003

8. Minnesota, 1993; includes gender identity

9. Rhode Island, 1995; gender identity added 2001

10. District of Columbia, 1997, gender identity added 2005

11. New Hampshire, 1997

12. Nevada, 1999, employment only

13 Maryland, 2001

14. New York, 2002

15. New Mexico, 2003; includes gender identity

16. Illinois, 2005; includes transgender people in definition of “sexual orientation”

17. Maine, 2005; includes gender identity

18. Washington, 2006; includes gender identity in definition of “sexual orientation”

19. Oregon, 2007; includes gender identity in definition of “sexual orientation.” Signed by governor; takes effect January 1, 2008

20. Iowa, 2007; includes gender identity; still awaiting governor’s signature

21. Colorado, 2007, employment only; includes gender identity in definition of “sexual orientation”; still awaiting governor’s signature

Maine passed a law in 1997 but it was repealed by voters the next year; a replacement measure was rejected by voters in November 2000. Another repeal referendum was defeated by voters in 2005, allowing that law to stand.



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