Ohio LGBTQ discrimination bill gets support

CLEVELAND — A bill that would add LGBTQ to Ohio’s civil rights protections got a boost on Monday, local media reported.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio has tried six times to get House Bill 160 passed. It’s never made it out of committee, according to cleveland.com. But it got the backing of Ohio businesses this week.

From cleveland.com:

Antonio is optimistic this attempt will meet a better faith partly because the bill has the backing of more than 200 businesses in Ohio. The companies are part of Ohio Business Competes, or OBC, which is pushing for nondiscriminatory policies to be instituted on a statewide basis. The coalition is a project of the ACLU of Ohio, Equality Ohio, which lobbies for LGBTQ rights; the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBTQ civil rights advocacy and political organization and TransOhio, which advocates for transgender people.

Aaron Baer, president of Citizen for Community Values, based in Columbus said his group would lobby against HB 160.

“Anytime we’re considering a law, we need to ask the basic question of whether this is needed,” he said. “Ohio is a very tolerant state,” he said. “We’re not seeing businesses left and right denying service and discriminating against anybody. There is not an epidemic going on. It is just not happening.”

Lynne Bowman, senior regional field director for the Human Rights Campaign, however, believes such strong business support for the bill will have an impact.

“What we have seen in other states, where there are business coalitions that come together on nondiscrimination legislation and other types of pro-LGBTQ laws, is that they have existing relationships with legislators and they have political power in the state because of the numbers of peoples they employ and what they bring to the economy,” she said. “So, their voices tend to be fairly loud. Their influence tends to be fairly strong.”

Cleveland.com stated that the Ohio Chamber of Commerce has not chimed in yet on the bill. Ohio is one of 28 states with no statewide protection of LGBTQ.