Ohio Nondiscrimination Bill Looks to Include Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

A new bill is working its way through the state legislature with a mission to expand nondiscrimination laws to protect individuals.

House Bill 160, also called the Ohio Fairness Act, would change the current Ohio nondiscrimination law to make discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression illegal.

It will be presented to the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

Despite recent national conversations about discrimination, and Kent passing a similar ordinance over the summer, students who were interviewed were largely unaware of the bill and its contents.

The current nondiscrimination law says that one can not be discriminated against based on “race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or military status… national origin or ancestry.”

The list of goods and services someone cannot be denied includes employment, acquiring housing, buying real estate, obtaining business licenses and permits, educational opportunities and child care access.

The Ohio Fairness Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Nickie Antonio (D), would add “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” to the list of identifying factors protected by the law.

Many of those interviewed thought that protections for LGBTQ people were already part of Ohio’s nondiscrimination laws, or didn’t realize it was a social issue that needed addressed.

“I didn’t know it wasn’t included already,” said freshman Alisa Hasanagic, although she agreed it was a good step to take after the details of the bill were explained.

Other students, like junior international relations major Analysa Smith, were unaware that LGBTQ individuals are still being discriminated against in a way that requires this addition to the code.

“I didn’t know people were doing that,” Smith said, referring to discrimination against LGBTQ people. “I just see it as not a big deal, that I would hope that everyone would see it as not a big deal.”

Students who had heard of the bill previously were supportive of the measure, as were most students when the details of the bill were explained.

“I really hope it passes,” said freshman English major Amanda Ambrose. “I have dated people who were transgender and gay in the past, and for future relationships it would be really nice.”

The hearing will be televised on the Ohio Channel beginning at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

During the meeting, committee members will hear stories and testimony from Ohio residents and vote to decide whether the bill will pass through to the general assembly.

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