Legalizing bigotry with “Don’t Say Gay” bill will chase businesses away from Ohio

April 19, 2022 3:20 am

Hundreds protest at the historic Stonewall Inn. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Question: How could you blow a $20 billion investment in Ohio? Answer: Chase away business with legislation to legitimize bigotry. A cynical attempt by Ohio House Republicans to further stigmatize and marginalize LGBTQ people in Ohio with a Florida-style “Don’t Say Gay” bill could give Intel pause about breaking ground on the state’s largest private sector investment ever. Understandable. The mammoth chipmaker is a major champion of LGBTQ rights. 

Imagine how Intel might react to a “Welcome to Ohio” sign with a subheading (“Unless you’re non-heterosexual”) as it prepares to drop a ton of money on a sprawling new complex east of the state capital. Big roadblock for any business hoping to lure the best and brightest minds to fill job openings in Ohio. Good luck recruiting employees or retaining them in a “Don’t Say Gay” state run by myopic radicals who have fallen way down the “Fox News” rabbit hole. 

Brainless legislation — introduced in the Ohio House to score cheap political points by going after LGBTQ children and schools — is obviously bad for business and bad for families. It could put the brakes on a massive manufacturing hub and thousands of high-paying Intel jobs. That’s how bad it is. But stupidity reigns supreme among the worthless MAGA muppets destroying Ohio to grab Statehouse headlines. And now the “Don’t Say Gay” proponents have alerted job creators — looking to invest in an environment “where everyone can feel safe, welcomed and celebrated for who they are” — to look elsewhere.

Does that include Intel? As one of the largest computer hardware and software companies on the planet, it been at the forefront of corporate LGBTQ advocacy for decades. In 1994, the technology giant established its first employee resource group to drive “awareness of issues impacting the LGBTQ community” and serve “as a support network for its members.” So how does Intel’s steadfast affirmation of inclusion, equality and diversity among its worldwide employees square with a state like Ohio that allowed doctors to deny LGBTQ health care on moral grounds and has now targeted LGBTQ discussions in the classroom for censorship? 

It doesn’t. Last year Intel joined over 80 major companies across the U.S., including Facebook, Amazon, AT&T and Microsoft, in publicly opposing the rash of anti-LGBTQ bills speeding through Republican-led states. “They seek to put the authority of state government behind discrimination and promote mistreatment of a targeted LGBTQ population,” the business statement read. Well, yes. 

“These bills would harm our team members and their families, stripping them of opportunities and making them feel unwelcome and at risk in their own communities.” Well, again yes. “As we make complex decisions about where to invest and grow, these issues can influence our decisions,” the corporate giants concluded. And yet, here we are, my fellow shellshocked Ohioans. 

A new anti-LGBTQ bill, (Ohio House Bill 616) that mirrors the other so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bills popping up in Republican-led states, is on the table. The far right’s playbook against the LGBTQ community is all the rage these days. It’s the perfect wedge issue — parent versus indoctrinating schools. A way to repackage anger over critical race theory and mask mandates. Ban classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Pretend these salacious issues permeate daily K-12 lesson plans throughout the state. Make gay cancel culture acceptable. House Bill 616 isn’t just about banning books and discussions; it’s about erasing people who are different. Make believe they don’t exist or shouldn’t exist. Put vulnerable LGBTQ youth in even more harm to get a rise from the MAGA base.

That’s the ugly underpinning of Ohio’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Its repulsiveness has mobilized Ohio business organizations to strongly reject House Bill 616 and the “devastating message it sends Ohio’s brand — that we are not a welcoming and inclusive state.” The legislative gems who co-sponsored this vaguely written piece of garbage, bray that their bill is about “protecting the innocence” of kindergarteners and ensuring “an age-appropriate education that is free of indoctrination.” What a crock.

State Reps. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, (a Marjorie Taylor Green wannabe) and Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, (a former congresswoman tainted by scandal) fool no one with this “demoralizing attack on personal identity.” But they display a shocking lack of awareness about the pedagogy practiced in K-12 classrooms. Spoiler alert: As a rule, kindergarten teachers don’t teach gender identity and sexual orientation to 5-year-olds.   

Clearly, House Bill 616, (with a splash of critical race theory hysteria thrown in for good measure) isn’t rooted in rational thought. It’s a mean-spirited, concocted charade to light a fire. Ohio’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was drafted to demonize what the alt-right hates from critical thinking about enduring racism to equity and acceptance of LGBTQ people. That community, (more than 380,000 strong in Ohio) is being scapegoated by Republican extremists in the legislature who see no political downside to enshrining LGBTQ discrimination into law. 

But if Intel balks at the injustice before it breaks ground in Ohio, what then? Will the partisan bullies buckle or blow off a $20 billion bonanza in exchange for seeding a hostile LGBTQ landscape?  Will Intel insist on relocating to a state that upholds fundamental nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Ohioans?

We’d lay out the welcome mat if the multinational corporation made that demand non-negotiable.



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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.