In most of Ohio, a lesbian couple can be denied service at a diner; two gay men can be kicked out of their hotel room; and, a transgender person can be fired for coming out. This is not the Ohio we envision. To change that, Ohio State Representatives Ross McGregor (Republican) and Nickie Antonio (Democrat) introduced the Equal Housing and Employment Act (“EHEA”) in the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday. EHEA would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Ohio’s non-discrimination laws, ensuring that all Ohioans have the freedom to work, the freedom to live where they choose, and the freedom to access public accommodations.
Many Ohioans don’t realize that there is currently no statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Ohio law protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry; and, many local jurisdictions and private employers have various prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But in approximately 75% of the state, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is legally allowed.
EHEA is critical because discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a widespread problem. A recent study at UCLA Law School found that 9.2% of gay, lesbian or bisexual people were fired or denied employment based on their sexual orientation, and 37.7% were harassed on the job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender people are four times more likely to be unemployed than the general population, and that loss of productivity is costly for everyone. People should be judged at work based on their merit and ability to perform their job, and everyone loses when qualified and productive employees are discriminated against.
In 2011, it should not be permissible to discriminate against LGBT people in Ohio, but it is.