A bill making its way through the Ohio Statehouse would expand the anti-LGBTQ discrimination law from pockets of local law to the state level.
The Ohio House Civil Justice Committee will examine the Ohio Fairness Act on Tuesday, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to current anti-discrimination laws.
Grant Stancliff, communications director for Equality Ohio, believes the act should be passed because it provides basic protections to those in the LGBTQ community.
“Over two dozen local areas, like Athens, have these local protections … but that only covers about a quarter of Ohio,” Stancliff said. “You shouldn’t have to move to the city just to have basic civil rights … the state really needs to step in and make sure that everybody does.”
Equality Ohio began in 2005 when it was founded by activists after same-sex marriage was voted against in Ohio. Now, the non-profit works to include LGBTQ representation into Ohio law.
29 states have already passed laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, Stancliff said.
The primary sponsor of The Ohio Fairness Act is Ohio Sen. Nickie Antonio.
Prior to becoming a senator, Antonio, a Democrat, was the first openly LGBTQ person in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Stancliff said that throughout the years, Ohio citizens have realized that LGBTQ citizens need to be protected under state law.
“We’re trying to put in sexual orientation and gender identity so that there is a better-protected body,” Stancliff said.
On Jan. 15, OU Student Senate unanimously passed a bill in support of The Ohio Fairness Act. Lydia Ramlo, student senate president, said she was surprised that the state doesn’t already have protections for those in the LGBTQ community.
She said Student Senate wanted to take a stance on the issue.
“I think it’s really important that we want this for our Bobcats in Ohio as well and make sure they have a safe community.” Ramlo said. “It’s kind of confusing to me as to why this hasn’t passed yet because we want to be inclusive and also safe … it should have passed years ago but it should definitely be, no question, passed now.”
A copy of the bill was sent to OU President Duane Nellis and other administrators and legislators.
In January, Athens City Council also passed a bill in support of the Ohio Fairness Act, according to a previous Post report. Peter Kotses, D-At Large, said Athens has continuously affirmed its commitment to inclusivity since prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation back in 1998.
The city also added the categories of gender identity and expression to its non-discrimination policy in 2010.
Ohio legislators will have until December to pass the Ohio Fairness Act through state legislation before the session is adjourned and the bill discarded, Stancliff said.