After striking out at the state level, LGBT activists are now working at the city level to pass “anti-discrimination” laws across the state.
While the state’s largest cities – about 20 of them led by Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus – have over the last few years adopted so-called “anti-discrimination” ordinances that establish LGBT people as a protected class of citizens, state lawmakers at the Capitol have rejected the notion that such laws are needed.
Ohio is one of 31 mostly Republican-controlled states that has not passed any laws establishing the LGBT community as a special protected class. As a result, the LGBTQ magazine them says that “activists are looking for other avenues to equality, and they’re finding success at city and village halls.”
— them. (@them) November 13, 2018
“Community by community — and most recently, in Ohio’s second-biggest county, Cuyahoga — they’re winning passage of LGBTQ+-inclusive nondiscrimination laws that have been stymied at the Statehouse for the better part of a decade,” the magazine continues. “Residents in more than 60 cities, villages, and townships that are home to more than one quarter of Ohio’s population now fall under local laws that ban discrimination in employment, housing, and government and business services based on one’s LGBTQ+ identity.”
Twenty local governments, including six since 2017, have passed laws of their own that the pro-LGBT group Equality Ohio says adequately protect “queer Ohioans.” They include tiny hamlets such as Yellow Springs (population 3,734) and college towns like Athens and Oxford.
The magazine notes that in late September the Cuyahoga County Council approved Ohio’s first countywide nondiscrimination ordinance, a sweeping piece of legislation that gives special status to “LGBTQ+ residents” of 53 suburban cities that hadn’t approved laws of their own.
“If you’re a legislator, you’re going to find communities close to home that have passed nondiscrimination protections,” Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, told them. “It’s going to be harder and harder to say this is not right for Ohio.”
Them was launched in 2017 by the New York City-based global media giant Condé Nast Inc. as a way of reaching generation Z, “and more than half of Gen Z identifies as queer,” according to a press release by the publisher.
The magazine lamented the election earlier this month of Republican Mike DeWine as governor, saying his Democratic opponent, Richard Cordray, is “a strong ally of the queer community.”
Them says the lobbying efforts at the local level are “part of a new queer activism in communities across Ohio that embraces both politics and visibility.”
“Seventeen local Pride celebrations took place across the state this past summer, from the Lake Erie shore in Sandusky to the Ohio River banks in Portsmouth,” it adds.
Republicans have argued that anti-discrimination laws are often vaguely worded, and could end up forcing private businesses to conform to social standards that violate their religious beliefs. Other critics note that such laws are often selectively enforced against Christian businesses while bypassing other sects such as those adhering to the Islamic faith.
Under current law, Ohio businesses have the choice of whether they will provide services or not, unless they are located in one of the aforementioned cities, though they always risk facing a lawsuit.
Because they can’t make headway at the state Capitol, Ohio’s LGBT activists say they will bypass state government and pass ordinances at the local level, “one community at a time.”
The city-by-city effort is strategic, the leaders of Equality Ohio told them, which criticized some Ohio lawmakers for passing legislation that protects religious leaders.
According to them, politicians in Columbus “turned their attention to bills like the so-called ‘Pastor Protection Act,’ which protects clergy from legal penalty if they refuse to perform marriages that they say go against their religious beliefs.”
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