Friday, January 27

Statewide LGBTQ+ protections inch forward, get first hearing in Ohio Senate

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On Wednesday, the Ohio Fairness Act (Senate Bill 119) received its first hearing in the Ohio Senate.

First introduced in 2008, the bill would protect LGBTQ+ Ohioans from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

State Senator Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) — the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve in the Ohio state legislature — has sponsored a version of the bill every year since she was first elected in 2011.

More than a decade later, statewide protections for LGBTQ+ people have garnered more bipartisan support than ever before.

Last month, legislators heard public testimony in the Ohio House from a surprising co-sponsor of the bill: conservative State Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville).

During testimony, Hillyer acknowledged his unlikely sponsorship of the bill and pointed to economic growth as motivation for bipartisan support.

“Without nondiscrimination policies in place, Ohio falls behind economically,” he said.

Across the state, there is widespread support for the bill among big businesses.

More than 1,300 major employers including Proctor and Gamble, Honda, Key Bank, Huntington Bank, and AT&T created Ohio Business Competes, a statewide coalition of major businesses and chambers of commerce in support of the bill.

21 states have passed similar legislation, along with 34 individual municipalities across Ohio.

“No one should be denied access to a home or live in fear of losing their job,” Antonio said during public testimony. “All citizens should enjoy the ability to participate in one’s own community without fear of discrimination.”

“It is time for the state of Ohio to act to ensure that basic civil rights of all Ohioans are being protected,” she added in a written statement. “We have the opportunity to make this a reality and communicate to the world that Ohio is indeed open for business to all.”

About Author

H.L. Comeriato is the staff writer for The Buckeye Flame. A queer and non-binary writer and reporter from Akron, Ohio, they covered public health for The Devil Strip via Report for America.

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