In more than half the states across the country, it is legal to fire someone solely based on the employee’s sexual orientation. As Congress continues to waffle on whether to provide such a basic protection against discrimination, the state of Ohio is trying to become the 16th state to do so. Yesterday, state lawmakers introduced House Bill 335, a measure that would include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” on the list of people protected from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.” The bill does include an exemption for religious institutions.
Though regularly denounced by many conservatives, the Ohio measure is receiving support from an unexpected corner: religious groups and the GOP. Reformed Catholic Rev. Michael Brown in Ohio conveyed his dismay that such basic rights continue to be withheld, stating, “I thought this was settled in the ’60s when poor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died”:
The Rev. Michael Brown of the Holy Cross Reformed Catholic Church in Bowling Green was on hand yesterday for the bill’s introduction.
“They aren’t asking for special rights, just the same rights as everyone else,” Brown said. “I thought this was settled in the ’60s when poor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died.”[...]
Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, remains hopeful that this could be the year.
“I have faith in my legislative colleagues,” McGregor said. “We’d like to see it on the governor’s desk.”
Religious support for such fundamental civil rights is certainly not unprecedented. Thirty-six religious organizations of various faiths urged the Senate to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2009, a federal bill prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees. The bill has been introduced in every Congress, except the 109th, since 1994. In testifying before Congress in 2009, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Reform Jewish Movement stated on behalf of the 900 congresgations of the Union for Reform Judaism, “We oppose discrimination against all individuals, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women, for the stamp of the Divine is imprinted on the souls of each and every one of us.”
This is the Ohio House’s second attempt to prohibit such discrimination, after passing a similar bill last year. The state Senate never acted on it. Though Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) promised to extend protections to the LGBT community via executive order, he excluded protection for “gender identity” — breaking his campaign pledge. He has not offered a position on this bill and it remains to be seen whether McGregor’s “faith” is well-placed.