A bipartisan bill will be re-introduced that would protect LGBTQ people in Ohio from discrimination

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio and state rep. Michael Skindell are reintroducing the Fairness Act in both the House and the Senate

By: - June 29, 2023 4:50 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — JUNE 17: The Stonewall Columbus Pride March, June 17, 2023, on High Street in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Ohio lawmakers are once again introducing a bill that would give LGBTQ people protections from discrimination in housing and employment.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, and State Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, are reintroducing the Ohio Fairness Act in both the House and the Senate.

“The Fairness Act would simply provide civil rights protections for members of the LGBTQ community basic rights under the law so that we may live, work, worship, attend school, raise our families, and enjoy the freedoms outlined in our country’s own Declaration of Independence, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Antonio said Wednesday during a press conference. 

This is the 11th time this legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives and Ohio’s Democratic Caucus is hoping the 11th time is the charm. 

“The reason that we cannot give up on this legislation is imperative to protect the LGBT community from discrimination particularly in housing and employment,” Skindell said. “No one should live in fear of being bullied, fired, or otherwise discriminated against simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Ohio is one of 27 states without laws protecting individuals from employment, housing, or public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender.

“It is time for the Ohio legislature to act to ensure the basic civil rights of all Ohioans are being protected,” Antonio said. “This legislation presents hope over fear, opportunity over adversity and inclusion over exclusion. … This should not be a Democrat or Republican issue. This is an issue of fairness, equity and economics.”

History of the Fairness Act

The bills, which are still being drafted, are bipartisan — just like they were during the last General Assembly. 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — JUNE 15: Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, speaks during the Ohio Senate session, June 15, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)

State Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, will once again co-sponsor the House bill with Skindell.

State Sens. George Lang, R-West Chester, and Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, are co-sponsoring the Senate bill with Antonio. During the last General Assembly, state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, co-sponsored the bill. 

The Ohio Fairness Act was first introduced in the General Assembly in 2003 and it passed in the House of Representatives in September 2009 only to be blocked by the Ohio Senate, Skindell said. 

Antonio has introduced the Ohio Fairness Act in every General Assembly since she was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2011. 

In last year’s General Assembly, the Fairness Act (SB 119 and HB 208) never made it out of their respective committees. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, and more than 1,300 businesses joined Ohio Business Competes in support of those bills. 

Helping Ohio’s economy 

Antonio and Skindell argue the Fairness Act will help Ohio businesses and the state’s overall economic growth. 

“The Ohio Fairness Act will attract businesses to our state, grow our economy and help maintain workers to live here and raise a family,” Antonio said. “Treating LGBT people fairly and acknowledging their contributions will create long term economic benefits for our state.” 

Skindell also mentioned how the Fairness Act could help Intel, a Silicon Valley semiconductor maker that picked Licking County in 2021 to build a new microchip factory, hire employees. Ground-breaking on the Intel site started last fall and production in the factories is scheduled to be up and running in 20225.  

“Are they going to be able to recruit the workforce that they need?” Skindell asked. “They need a diverse population to do that. They need a welcoming and supportive state to be behind that.”

This bill comes at a time when there are a handful of anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans bills in the current General Assembly — including House Bill 8 which would force educators to out students to their parents.

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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.