Ohio Chamber of Commerce backing LGBTQ bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is supporting legislation that would ban job and housing discrimination against LGBTQ Ohioans.

Cleveland.com reported on Thursday that the chamber was backing House Bill 160, called the Ohio Fairness Act. The bill would extend Ohio’s workplace and housing discrimination protections to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. It would also add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to existing state laws against discriminatory practices. The chamber joined a coalition of 300 other businesses supporting the bill.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Democrat. The bill will get a second committee hearing later this month, the website reported.

From cleveland.com:

Public opinion polling has shown most Ohioans think those criteria are already included in state law alongside factors such as age, race, sex, religion and disability status.

Ohio is among 28 states that do not have such protections for LGBTQ people, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Don Boyd, director of labor and legal affairs for the chamber, said the bill is good for business. Boyd said many chamber members and Ohio cities already have such policies, so updating the state policy would ensure consistency for businesses that operate statewide.

“Our members want to be able to attract the best and the brightest from all walks of life,” Boyd said in an interview. “To be able to do that and compete with other states for talent, we need to make people feel welcome there. Part of that is making sure we have adequate protections in place for all employees.”

An employment and housing anti-discrimination bill passed the House in 2009, when it was controlled by Democrats, but failed to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. Republicans have led both chambers since then and have not advanced Antonio’s past attempts.