The leader of minority Democrats in the Ohio House says when the new human resources handbook came out last month, it was missing the clause that provided job protection for LGBTQ employees. She wanted to know why that clause, which was in previous handbooks, had been removed.
Democratic Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) says the new human resources director at the Ohio House told her the protection for LGBTQ employees that had been provided in the chamber's non-discrimination policy in the past was excluded now because it was not part of state law. House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) confirms that line was removed to make the house policy more in line with current anti-discrimination laws.
"The House has long had a policy of looking at various amounts of classes that are recognized federally and by the state as protected classes. LGBTQ is currently not one of those protected classes. We continue to abide by and comply with federal and state law," Householder says.
Should the protection be provided in state law?
Householder says he doesn't personally know whether that protection should be included in the written policy. He says he'd like to hear lawmakers debate whether state law should contain that protection. Ohio lawmakers have had their chance to take up the issue during the past decade as bills that would add protection for LGBTQ Ohioans have been introduced but have not come close to passage. There is currently a bill in the Ohio Senate, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), that would add LGBTQ protections to the state's anti-discrimination law.
Sykes says LGBTQ employees in the Ohio House shouldn't have to wait for lawmakers to pass a law. She says legislative aides and support staff do important work and "deserve that sense of inclusion and to feel like they are a part of this body and will be protected and supported no matter who they are." She notes the Republican led Ohio Senate has a policy that includes protection for LGBTQ employees. And she says all Republican office holders, including the Governor's office and the Ohio Supreme Court, offer it too.
" I think what the general consensus is if Ohio is not an inclusive state, we are closed for business," Sykes says.
While the state doesn't have a policy that mandates protection for LGBTQ Ohioans, many major Ohio companies have voluntarily included it in their non-discrimination policies. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce supported the bill last year that would have banned job or housing discrimination against LGBTQ people. Some churches and the group, Citizens for Community Values, have traditionally opposed allowing that protection, even though civil rights law exemptions that religious organizations currently have were not affected by previous legislation.