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January 14, 2011

Kasich lets LGBT job bias rule expire

Will he renew Strickland’s order protecting state employees?

Columbus--LGBT state employees are no longer protected from discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Governor John Kasich, who took office on January 10, allowed his predecessor’s executive order barring such discrimination to expire.

Neither Ohio nor federal law provides any protection from anyone being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But an order signed four years ago by former governor Ted Strickland prohibited such discrimination against all 60,000 state employees in hiring, layoff, termination, transfer, promotion, demotion, rate of compensation and eligibility for training programs.

It also gave state agencies and universities the rationale to expand and update their internal non-discrimination policies, including the ones covering interaction with the public as well as employees.

The day after Kasich’s inauguration, when he would have had to do something to keep Strickland’s order in effect, spokesperson Rob Nichols confirmed to the Gay People’s Chronicle that the order had expired.

Another source close to Kasich said there will likely be an announcement about the matter, and possibly other executive orders, “later.”

“You might be surprised by what [Kasich] does,” the source said.

Earlier, on December 30, Nichols said that the order is “not something we’re looking at right now.”

A day later, when pressed, Nichols said that the order had not been discussed.

“There are a couple EOs [executive orders] which he [Kasich] has said he wants repealed, but he hasn’t said anything about this one,” Nichols wrote in an email.

Strickland’s 2007 order restored job protections that had been dropped eight years earlier by Strickland’s predecessor, Bob Taft, who let expire a 1983 order protecting employees from discrimination by sexual orientation.

The 1983 order was executed by then-Gov. Richard Celeste. His successor, George Voinovich, allowed it to remain in effect until 1999 when Taft took office.

Once Taft’s dropping the order was discovered and reported by the LGBT press, Taft signed a new order that did not include gays and lesbians, nor any other specific group. It declared a general policy to “prohibit discriminatory employment practices and to ensure that all Ohio citizens have equal employment opportunity,” then recapped federal nondiscrimination guidelines--which do not include sexual orientation.

Taft spokesperson Scott Milburn told the Gay People’s Chronicle at the time that the governor was taking employment discrimination “to the next level,” because “discrimination in state hiring practices is a problem not just for the gay and lesbian community, but for every person.”

Employment law experts almost unanimously disagreed with Milburn and called Taft’s new order “meaningless.”

A few months later, it was discovered that state agencies and boards were changing their relationship to their lesbian and gay clients, even though the clients aren’t state workers.

Most notable was when the Ohio Counselors Credentialing Board and the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services merged and had to revise their rules.

The combined agency deleted “sexual orientation” from a set of anti-bias rules that is part of the code of ethics for chemical dependency counselors. It was the only change that was made to the 38-page code.

Senior department staff said they were “streamlining the language” to make it more consistent with Taft’s.

“We thought it should be in line with the language used by the rest of the state,” said department spokesperson Stacey Frohnapfel at the time.

“Randall Weber, our equal employment opportunity coordinator, said the [the old statement that included sexual orientation] wasn’t consistent and should be changed,” Frohnapfel said.

“Sexual orientation” was only returned to the rules when lesbian and gay counselors protested, and Taft issued a memorandum saying the department “misused” his orders.

Executive orders are not law. They are policy declarations of an administration which, in this case, can be the basis for legal action.

Strickland’s order gave any LGBT employee who believes they were discriminated against the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity section of the state Department of Administrative Services, the same as for race or religious bias.

Further, the order subjected anyone engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination to discipline equal to that of other discriminatory conduct.

But the order “sunsetted,” or automatically expired, the moment Kasich was sworn in, and Ohio still has no law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations. (Twenty-one other states do have such measures, of which 14 cover gender identity.)




This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given to repost no more than the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.










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