The Ohio House is expected to vote
today on a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate on the
basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (transgender
protections) in the areas of employment, public accommodations and
The legislation is expected to be
approved in the Democratically-controlled House, but passage in the
Senate remains uncertain. Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican
from Ashland, has questioned whether the bill's protections are
Democratic Representative Dan Stewart's
Equal Housing and Employment Act (EHEA) has attracted the support of
27 Democrats and two Republicans in the 99-member House. Stewart has
introduced similar legislation in previous sessions but the bills
never came up for a vote.
While voters approved by a large margin
a constitutional amendment that bans both gay marriage and civil
unions in 2004, support for gay protections appears strong in Ohio.
A June Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority (57%) of
voters favor gay protections, with 35% in opposition.
A similar gay protections bill has been
introduced in Congress, but Congressman Barney Frank's Employment
Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) only outlaws discrimination in the
Kim Welter, program manager for
education and outreach at Equality
Ohio, says the law is needed even if Congress approves ENDA.
“ENDA is a good thing, but ENDA is
employment only,” Welter told On Top Magazine last month.
“House Bill 176 [EHEA] includes housing and public accommodations,
as well as credit. So even if ENDA goes through, we still need HB176
to pick up that very important housing piece, which would not be
included in ENDA.”