The Ohio House began hearings Wednesday on HB 160, legislation that would ban housing, employment and other discrimination based on residents’ sexual orientation or gender identity.
.Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, an openly gay member of the Ohio House, called the bill a “fair proposal that will simply give people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender the same freedom to work, the same freedom to live where they choose, and the same full equal participation in society, just as anyone else in Ohio.”
She added, “No one should be denied access to a home and all that comes with that responsibility, no one should live in fear of losing their job, or be denied the right to pursue a career and be a contributing member of society.”
Comparable legislation has been introduced repeatedly during recent general assemblies, and a similar bill passed the Ohio House when Democrats controlled that chamber in 2009. But the Republican-controlled Senate killed the bill in that session and subsequent ones.
Republican members of the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee asked no questions about the bill during Wednesday’s initial hearing.
Antonio added that her two children, both in their 30s, opted to move to other states with more progressive policies.
“It breaks my heart that my children would not consider right now raising their children in Ohio because they don’t see Ohio as a place that would embrace them. …,” she said. “I think it’s time for Ohio to change rather than have people leave the state.”
HB 160, titled the Ohio Fairness Act, would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, similar to protections already in place for age, race and religious affiliation. Antonio said her bill also reaffirms religious exemptions that currently exist in state law.
Ohio is currently one of 28 states in the nation where it is perfectly legal to be fired for being LGBT.