by Laura Rodriguez-Carbone
On June 30, Governor DeWine signed into law, language allowing health care workers, hospitals, and health insurance companies to refuse to provide, or pay for, medical services or care on the basis of moral, ethical, or religious objections. Signing this medical refusal clause into law not only sets a dangerous precedent in the middle of a pandemic and public health emergency, but codifies discrimination against the LGBTQIA community, who already live with few options for medical care, into Ohio law. The language added to the state budget at the eleventh hour was hastily signed by the governor without the opportunity for public discussion or debate.
This is a prime example of the systemic discrimination we are working to eradicate in Lakewood. Non-discrimination laws in Ohio have historically neglected to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity: It is unconscionable that Ohio has chosen to further limit civil protections for marginalized communities while simultaneously failing to provide basic civil rights protections for its residents.
The lack of civil protections for the LGBTQIA community in Ohio contributes to an environment where people are more likely to experience stigma and discrimination. The implications this clause will have on the LGBTQIA community, who are already at a greater risk for COVID-19 infection, are far reaching, and could lead to situations where a patient’s access to life-saving medical care, whether emergent or routine, is compromised.
This clause is part of a continuous assault on the LGBTQIA community by Ohio lawmakers, who have tried repeatedly this year to insert refusal clauses into bills; first attempting to ban transgender athletes from participating in school sports, and now to give medical providers, medical caregivers, and insurance companies the freedom to deny basic care and medical services to human beings.
As a city, we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect all residents, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion from systemic, implicit or explicit discrimination and harm. We must act locally to push back and soundly reject laws that strip human beings of their dignity, and compromise their right to receive equal access to health care services. All residents in our community should feel protected and know they have recourse when they experience discrimination.
This is why I am proposing that Lakewood City Council introduce and pass an ordinance that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity by medical providers, hospitals, and clinics operating within our municipality, utilizing home rule as a justification for such an ordinance.
This medical refusal clause is wrong, amoral, and does not represent the inclusive future most Ohioans are trying to build for their families, friends and communities. An ordinance preventing discrimination in medical care for our LGBTQIA residents is the right thing to do. We need to send a resounding message to Ohio lawmakers that discrimination, in any form, against any resident is not welcome in Lakewood.
Laura Rodriguez-Carbone is a Community Advocate, Co-Chair of Lakewood’s Anti-Racism Task Force and Candidate for Lakewood City Council At-Large www.lauraforlakewood.com.