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Lakewood lawmaker introduces LGBT discrimination bill

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: March 24, 2017 1:25 PM

COLUMBUS -- A Democratic state lawmaker is reintroducing legislation that would ban housing, employment and other discrimination based on residents' sexual orientation or gender identity.

Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) has offered comparable legislation in multiple general assemblies, without gaining needed support in the Republican-controlled chambers.

"All Ohioans, including those from the LGBT community, should have the chance to get ahead and to be full and complete citizens with the protections and promise of liberty and the right to take care of their families, because that's all any of us want," Antonio said during a morning press conference at the Statehouse Thursday. "They/we should not have to fear that they'll be evicted from home based on their gender identity or fired from their job based on who they love."

The legislation, titled the Ohio Fairness Act, would prohibit discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, similar to protections already in place for age, race and religious affiliation.

Antonio said her bill also reaffirms religious exemptions that currently exist in state law.

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"It's a fair proposal which simply gives people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender the same freedom -- the same freedom to work, the same freedom to live where they choose, the same freedom and full participation in our society, just as anyone else in Ohio," she said, adding, "For the estimated 300,000 LGBT Ohioans, fairness is long overdue."

Opponents of the legislation have objected for moral reasons or voiced concern that it would increase costs to businesses.

But proponents say more than 20 other states have comparable bans on discrimination in place, as do numerous Ohio cities, counties, universities and other employers. The latter includes the Ohio House and Senate.

"As a member of the LGBT community and an employee of the Ohio House of Representatives, that gives me great comfort," said Antonio, an openly gay member of the legislature.

Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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