Friday, May 18, 2007

Ohio bans sexual orientation discrimination for state employees

Governor Strickland on Thursday signed an Executive Order that protects all State workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring, layoffs, firings, transfers, promotions, demotions, compensation and eligibility for training programs. The Order restores protections first put in place by Governor Celeste and 1983, continued by Governor Voinovich, but removed by Governor Taft in 1999.

According to today's Columbus Dispatch, however, the Governor has concerns that any legislation by which Ohio joins the 20 other states that ban such discrimination in all employment might be unconstitutional. The problem, according to the Governor and his legal counsel, is that the 2004 amendment to the Ohio Constitution banning marriage may be so broadly worded that it could make such wider employment protections unconstitutional. The Dispatch quotes the Governor as saying, "Would I be sympathetic to efforts to end discrimination within the private workplace? Yes. Would I need to see the specifics of such legislation before I would ever commit myself to supporting or opposing it? Absolutely." Governor Strickland added that he wants "Ohio to be a place where all citizens are valued and included and allowed to fully participate without fear or concern that they may be the subject of discrimination based upon who they are." The article also notes that many private sector employers already ban such discrimination as part of their own internal EEO policies.

While the national push seems to be in favor of a broad ban against this type of discrimination, it is plausible that the 2004 measures enacted to help re-elect George Bush could have long lasting implications for workplace rights long after Mr. Bush leaves office.