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Bowling Green's proposed anti-discrimination amendment faces opposition from anti-abortion group

Bowling Green City Council at a recent meeting
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Bowling Green City Council at a recent meeting

Bowling Green City Council is considering amending the city's non-discrimination ordinance to include a definition of the word "sex."

Council member Nick Rubando said the proposed language would offer better protection for citizens based on reproductive rights.

"So not only will we choose to protect people who choose to have an abortion but also we will be protecting women and people who become pregnant if they do become pregnant. So people breastfeeding in the office or individuals who decide to have a baby in an apartment complex would be protected, so their landlord wouldn't be able to kick them out just because they got pregnant," Rubando said.

Rubando said a community group in Bowling Green approached him and asked if there was anything the city could do to protect reproductive rights within the city.

"They had told me stories of applying for jobs even when they were pregnant and feeling like they were discriminated against while applying for jobs within our city. And they were hoping for anything that could be offered as some protection," Rubando said.

The result, he said, was this proposed amendment to the city ordinance which he said was modeled very closely after similar legislation that the city of Columbus had already passed.

Ohio Right to Life Communications Director Elizabeth Whitmarsh said her organization opposes the amendment because she said it would basically expand Bowling Green's discrimination laws from protecting people based on immutable characteristics, like age and race, to protecting a political opinion.

"What the unintended consequence of that would be is that it would force pro-life organizations, like pro-life pregnancy resource centers, that it would force them to hire pro-choice advocates," Whitmarsh said.

Whitmarsh said it's a clear violation of the first amendment.

"The government of Bowling Green is attempting to force itself into our thoughts and beliefs rather than protecting and upholding our rights," Whitmarsh said.

Whitmarsh said it is "virtue signaling" by the government and would not be upheld as constitutional by courts. Therefore, she said it should not be on the city's books.

Whitmarsh said her group hasn't decided what it might do legally. She said the focus of Ohio Right to Life's efforts now is the upcoming Ohio Supreme Court race.

"Our number one focus right now is focusing on November 8 and the election and getting our three Supreme Court Justices elected that will uphold the right to life because ultimately, as you and I both know, this issue will be decided at the level of the Ohio Supreme Court so making sure that those races are won is our ultimate first priority and then holding these cities accountable that passed unconstitutional ordinances, that obviously will come next," Whitmarsh said.

Rubando said a representative of Ohio Right to Life threatened to sue the city at its last council meeting if the proposal gets a vote at its next meeting on Monday, November 7. Rubando said council members intend to vote on it though he said the current language of the proposal might be tweaked a little between now and then to make sure its intent is more clear.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
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