The Ohio Board of Education is debating a proposal to add sexual orientation to the list of protected classes, a move which would ban discrimination against gay and lesbian teachers.

Stephanie Dodd, a board member, first introduced the proposal 14 months ago.

“No person who possesses the knowledge, skill and passion for teaching and who abides by the code of professional conduct should ever be treated differently simply because of his or her age, color, ancestry, national origin, race, gender, religion, disability or veteran status,” Scott DiMauro, vice president of the Ohio Education Association, told the board on Tuesday. “The same must hold true for sexual orientation.”

Jimmie Beall, a school counselor, told the board that she was fired from a previous job “because there were questions about my sexual orientation.”

“That's scary,” she said.

Despite Dodd's assurances that her proposal protects the rights of religious institutions, several board members said it would interfere with the First Amendment.

“There are those who hold certain tenets of faith that would be contrary to a nondiscrimination provision,” said C. Todd Jones, a board member.

Also opposed is the board's legal counsel, who pointed out that Ohio law excludes such protections.