'Fairness Act' Gets Republican Supporter In Ohio House

Oct 16, 2019

Lawmakers have introduced a bill in the Ohio House that would expand rights for LGBTQ people by protecting access to housing, employment, and public accommodations.

The bill, HB369, mirrors a piece of legislation already introduced in the Ohio Senate, both are dubbed the "Ohio Fairness Act."

In the House, the legislation is sponsored by Rep. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Brett Hillyer (R- Uhrichsville).

"As a conservative it's my belief that you should be able to work and by yourself and so long as you can show up and do your job and do what your employer asks of you then you should have protections under the law," says Hillyer.

The legislation would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in Ohio's discrimination law.

Opponents have argued that it goes too far and could infringe of religious rights.

Earlier this month, it was announced that protections for LGBTQ employees in the Ohio House human resources handbook had been removed.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said it was removed to make the house policy more in line with current anti-discrimination laws.

"The House has long had a policy of looking at various amounts of classes that are recognized federally and by the state as protected classes. LGBTQ is currently not one of those protected classes. We continue to abide by and comply with federal and state law," Householder says.

Several proponents including business groups have lined up behind the "Ohio Fairness Act."

Timeline of LGBTQ anti-discrimination legislation:

March 2008: Rep. Dan Stewart (D-Columbus) introduces HB502 in the 127th General Assembly which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation which, according to an analysis of the bill, was described as "heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, or transgenderism, whether actual or perceived."

May 2009: Stewart introduces the legislation again as HB176, this time with Republican co-sponsor Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield). The bill moves through committee and passes the Ohio House, with a Democrat majority, by a vote of 56-38. It then moves to the Republican-controlled Senate where it never receives a hearing.

September 2011: Stewart leaves the House because of term limits, but Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) picks up the bill and introduces HB335 with McGregor as a co-sponsor again. This time Democrats in the Senate, Sens. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) draft a companion piece, SB231. Those bills only receive one hearing each.

May 2013: Antonio and McGregor sponsor HB163 in the House and the bill only gets one hearing. The Senate version finds a Republican sponsor in Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley) with Skindell co-sponsoring. SB125 does not have any hearings in a Senate committee.

November 2015: McGregor was term limited out of the House leaving Antonio to sponsor HB389 with Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). As with any other version of the bill introduced after 2009, the legislation only has one hearing.

March 2017: Antonio sponsors HB160, the last opportunity for the representative serving her last House term. The bill has had one hearing but Antonio, along with other advocates, remain hopeful about the bill's chances with the addition of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce as a proponent.

February 2019: Antonio introduces SB11 as a new member of the Ohio Senate. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) and is once again backed by the business community.