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Tom Feran
By Tom Feran April 2, 2013

ProgressOhio says Ohio lacks a law prohibiting employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

The U.S. Supreme Court put the focus on same-sex marriage when it heard cases challenging California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, but attention elsewhere fell on a wider range of rights issues.

The liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio Education used the opportunity to send out a fundraising email highlighting its work "for the rights of all Ohioans" beyond marriage.

"Did you know," the email asked, "it is legal in Ohio to fire an employee or evict a tenant just for being gay?"

The assertion took PolitiFact Ohio by surprise. We asked ProgressOhio for more information.

Executive director Brian Rothenberg said the failure of state legislation prohibiting employment and housing discrimination left gay people without legal protection in those areas.

He pointed to a recent legal case as underlining that point.

The legislation he mentioned was the Equal Housing and Employment Act, House Bill 176, which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classifications for which it is illegal to discriminate for housing, employment and public-accommodation purposes in Ohio.

(It already is illegal in Ohio to discriminate against a person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, handicap, age and ancestry.)

Introduced in the 128th General Assembly, H.B. 176 was passed by the Ohio House in September 2009, but was never brought up for a vote in the Senate and died with the end of that legislative session.

Similar legislation, House Bill 335, was introduced in the 129th General Assembly in October 2011. It suffered a similar fate, dying without a vote in either chamber.

The legal case Rothenberg cited, Inskeep v. Western Reserve Transit Authority, was decided in March by Ohio's 7th District Court of Appeals. The court dismissed the suit of a man who claimed he was harassed on the job because of his sexual orientation, ruling that Ohio's employment discrimination statute does not protect "sexual orientation."

The court said in its decision: "Several states have chosen to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals by adding sexual orientation as a protected status in their discrimination statutes. Because Ohio has not, it has been concluded that sexual orientation is not protected."

We looked further and found that Ohio prohibited discrimination within state employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity under an executive order issued by then-Gov. Ted Strickland in 2007. After it expired, Gov. John Kasich issued an executive order in January 2011 prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Both orders applied only to public employees in state jobs.

Twenty-nine Ohio cities and counties now have anti-discrimination ordinances, according to a tally by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ohio’s lack of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation parallels both federal law and the law of 28 other states, according to Business Management Daily, the advocacy group Equality Ohio and the ACLU.

On the Truth-O-Meter, the statement that it is legal in Ohio to fire an employee or evict a tenant for being gay rates as True.

Our Sources

ProgressOhio Education email, March 26, 2013

Interview with Brian Rothenberg, ProgressOhio, March 27, 2013

Ohio 128th General Assembly, H.B. No. 176

The Plain Dealer, "Ohio House bill targets discrimination against gays, transgender people; Budish promises vote," July 30, 2009

The Plain Dealer, "Ohio House passes bill protecting gays, transgendered from discrimination," Sept. 16, 2009

Columbus Dispatch, "Bill seeks protections for gays," Sept. 28, 2011

Ohio 129th General Assembly, H.B. 335, Sept. 27, 2011

The Plain Dealer, "Gender identity bill stuck in House," June 22, 2012

Business Management Daily, "Sexual Orientation Discrimination vs. Sexual Stereotypes Discrimination," March 21, 2013

Ohio Court of Appeals, 7th Appellate District, Inskeep v. Western Reserve Transit Authority, March 8, 2013

ACLU, "Non-discrimination laws: Ohio," Sept. 21, 2011

ACLU of Ohio, "Issues"

Equality Ohio, "Housing, Employment & Public Accommodations", "Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace"

Columbus Dispatch, "Kasich alters order on work rights," Jan. 22, 2011


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ProgressOhio says Ohio lacks a law prohibiting employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

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