Ohio Senate Democrats are sponsoring an “Ohio Fairness Act” that would prohibit “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
The 114-page bill was introduced by Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and claims to “uphold existing religious exemptions under Ohio’s Civil Rights Law.”
The bill, Senate Bill 11, received its third hearing Wednesday before the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee, where more than 200 supporters of the bill testified in favor of its passage, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
“In our efforts to champion economic competitiveness, the Ohio Chamber recognizes the value and power of diversity. We believe that employees deserve robust protections from discrimination and that discrimination of any type has no place in the workplace,” said Kevin Shimp, director of labor and legal affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
“The protections for housing, employment, and public accommodations in SB 11 would ensure that all Ohioans can benefit from Ohio’s growing workforce, enhance mutual respect between employers and employees, and further show that Ohio is a hospitable and welcoming place to live, work, and start a business,” he added.
Shimp believes that the bill would help “solve a regulatory compliance issue for employers by eliminating a patchwork of local labor ordinances in favor of a uniform statewide anti-discrimination standard.” There are currently 24 Ohio municipalities that have passed similar anti-discrimination laws, and others, such as Shaker Heights, are considering doing the same.
James Knapp, chairman of TransOhio, testified in favor of the bill and noted that he “went to a private, single-sex Catholic school in Akron, Ohio.”
“Which I mention only because it still is an all-girl school; and that’s a part of my history that you would never guess by looking at me,” Knapp continued. “And I, like all members of the LGBTQ community, have every right to live, work, and play here, and enjoy the full protections of the law, as they are applied to everyone else.”
“Sadly, as a leader of TransOhio, I have received reports from some who, because of just being in the community, were asked to leave restaurants and public venues. I ask you—is that the message of welcome we want to have for visitors who come to our state?” Knapp continued.
Representatives from several colleges and universities testified in support of the bill, including The Ohio State University, Kent State University, and Otterbein University. Leaders from the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, Temple Israel, and other religious institutions also testified as proponents of Senate Bill 11.
Ohio Senate Democrats touted a large number of proponents for the bill in a Friday tweet.
“This week, we heard from the many supporters of Nickie Antonio’s Ohio Fairness Act,” they said on Twitter. “230 businesses, cities, universities, advocacy organizations and citizens urged Ohio to pass SB 11 and end unfair discrimination against LGBTQ people.”
This week, we heard from the many supporters of @nickieantonio's #OHFairnessAct. 230 businesses, cities, universities, advocacy organizations and citizens urged Ohio pass #SB11 and end unfair discrimination against LGBTQ people.
— Ohio Senate Dems (@OhioSenateDems) May 24, 2019
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ohio Fairness Act Supporters” by Ohio Senate Dems.