Equal Housing and Employment Bill (HB 176) stalls in Ohio Senate

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Equal Housing and Employment Bill (HB 176) stalls in Ohio Senate

June 28, 8:35 AM – Cincinnati Liberal Issues Examiner – Timothy Gabelman

On September 15, 2009, with a vote of 56 to 39, Ohio’s House of Representatives passed the Equal Housing and Employment Bill (HB 176). The historic vote marks the first time in Ohio that a vote on the floor of the Ohio General Assembly has occurred on legislation protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

This bill would prohibit discriminatory practices on the basis of actual or perceived “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and empower the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to enforce anti-discrimination measure against the LGBT community in employment and housing.

At present, only twelve states and the District of Columbia protect individuals in their workplaces from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while an additional nine states protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation alone.

At this juncture, only 42% of the states protect their most valuable economic commodity – their workers – from discrimination against a quality that in no way impacts their ability to perform their job.

Yet, as of February 2009, 423 (85%) of the Fortune 500 companies ban discrimination based on orientation and 176 (35%) ban discrimination based on orientation and identity. Some of the leading employers that support fairness in the workplace and have stated support for federal legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity include: Bank of America Corp., Best Buy Co., Cisco Systems, Clear Channel Communications, Coca-Cola Co., Dell Inc., General Mills Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., Microsoft Corp.,
MillerCoors Brewing Co., Nationwide (headquartered in Columbus, OH), NCR Corp., and Time Warner, Inc.

It is unfathomable that corporate America would extend greater benefits than the law allows unless it recognized that qualified individuals should not be discriminated against based on characteristics unrelated to their job.

In a 2006 poll, 66% of Ohio registered voters believe that laws should be passed banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on both sexual orientation and gender identity or
expression (2006 Glengariff Poll of Ohio voters commissioned by Equality Ohio Education Fund).

The Ohio House of Representatives stood for equality in Ohio’s employment practices and housing accommodations, and fought for the due process of law to ensure that equal protection would be a hallmark
of Ohio’s Civil Rights Commission; Ohio’s governor, Ted Strickland, has promised to sign this legislation into law.

However, when the bill was brought to Ohio’s Senate, it was not assigned to a committee or to a floor vote.

Senate President Bill Harris (R-OH19) has, through an aide, expressed some doubts about the bill and subsequently has refused to allow it to see the light of day from the Ohio Senate or to even allow dialogue in
committee to reconcile the issues that he may have with it.

If you would like Ohio to join with the 21 other states of this nation in protecting the rights of workers, especially in a time of economic uncertainty, you can contact your state senator (a list of which can the found to the right of this article) and urge them to contact the President of the Senate or write Senate Harris directly at:

Senator Bill Harris
President of the Senate
1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

You can also call his office at (614) 466-8086 or email him at SD19@senate.state.oh.us.

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