Ohio lawmaker seeks clear discrimination protection for LGBT community

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A newly proposed law would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Ohio.

The Ohio Fairness Act Changes the state's anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected classes. Ohio is one of 28 states without clear discrimination protections for those in the LGBT community.

Maya Simek is the Director of Programs at the LGBT Center. Every week, calls come into the LGBT Community Center of Cleveland with people asking for help to fight discrimination at their jobs or places they live.

"Trying to find a way to remedy that situation is extremely problematic when we don't have state wide protections," she said. "If you don't look like how someone feels you should look like based what they prescribed gender norm they  have attributed to male or female and they something about you doesn't quite fit I can lawfully deny you employment or housing."

The Ohio Fairness Act seeks to keep that from happening. The legislation would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the lists of classes protected from discrimination under Ohio law.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio reintroduced the legislation Thursday.

"I just think that it's time to update our civil rights code, and equality should be shared by all. The majority of people in the state of Ohio believe LGBT are already protected and they're very shocked to find out they're not," said Antonio.

Sixteen Ohio cities have already passed non-discrimination ordinances, including Cleveland. Simek said there are still others that need the protection this legislation could provide.

"I think this would help some of the people we're seeing having discrimination be gainfully housed and employed so they wouldn't have to be scraping by," said Simek.

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