Freshman Republican State Representative Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) joined forces with Democrat Rep. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) to introduce the “Ohio Fairness Act” in the House. The bill is sexual orientation/gender identity legislation known as SOGI. It is a companion bill to Senator Nickie Antonio’s (D-Lakewood) Senate Bill 11 (SB 11).
The long title of the Senate version on the legislative website is: “Ohio Fairness Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, to add mediation as an informal method that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission may use, and to uphold existing religious exemptions under Ohio’s Civil Rights Law.”
Rep. Skindell offered a co-sponsor request for the same bill in July. Now that Republican member Hillyer has come on board, a new co-sponsor letter went out to the House Tuesday.
One statehouse source that wanted the remain anonymous commented, “Hillyer is playing everybody’s fool and he’s the only one who hasn’t figured in out yet.”
The co-sponsor letter – a copy of which was obtained by The Ohio Star and embedded below – states: “We will soon be introducing legislation referred to as the ‘Ohio Fairness Act’, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the covered characteristics currently identified as unlawful discriminatory practices under state law. This bill has the identical language as Substitute Senate Bill 11, which is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
The letter from the two Representatives names six organizations that support the SOGI legislation, including NFIB. However, NFIB confirmed to social conservative groups they are not a proponent of the bill – they are neutral.
Hillyer barely won his primary in the 98th House District. He inched passed Dover City Council President Shane Gunnoe by 12 votes.
Ohio Christian Alliance President Chris Long, who was speaking at the Westerville Tea Party about SOGI laws Tuesday evening, told The Ohio Star, “He’s [Hillyer] going to be primaried because of this.”
The timing of the co-sponsor does not appear coincidental. The Supreme Court of the United States began hearing three LGBT cases, also on Tuesday. Reuter’s reported, “The nine justices heard two hours of high-profile arguments in three cases that could broaden LGBT rights involving three workers – two gay and one transgender – who sued after being fired by their employers, claiming unlawful discrimination. The Supreme Court has never ruled on transgender rights.”
Ohio Value Voters’ President John Stover weighed in when he heard the news, “It was a shock to learn, and difficult to understand the rationale and endorsement of State Representative Brett Hillyer in his support of the Ohio Fairness Act.”
“This legislation will create an environment which will violate the privacy and safety of women and girls if passed by the General Assembly. The bill will permit men the right to use women’s restroom facilities through the ‘public accommodation’ section of this legislation,” Stover added.
The fate of the SOGI bill in the Ohio House is uncertain. Earlier this year The Ohio Star wrote that Speaker Householder sent a letter to libraries sharing his opposition to Drag Queen classes for children in libraries.
The Speaker told the libraries, “When I was first informed our public libraries were being used to teach teen age boys how to become drag queens, I thought it was a joke. But the joke is apparently on the taxpayers who fund libraries. This is a stunningly bizarre breach of the public trust. And it must stop.”
Opponents of SOGI laws concur with the Speaker’s sentiments. For them attempts to put women and children, female athletes and Christian businesses at risk is, “a stunningly bizarre breach of the public trust. And it must stop.”