Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ohio tries again to add LGBT rights to employment discrimination law

As I’ve said more times than I can count, I think it’s repulsive that, in 2016, it is lawful under Title VII and the employment-discrimination laws of most states to discriminate because of one’s LGBT status.

S.B. 318 [pdf], introduced in late April, looks to change this aberration in Ohio.

The bill amends Ohio’s employment-discrimination law to expressly include LGBT rights.
  • It defines “sexual orientation” as “actual or perceived, heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.”
  • It defines “gender identity or expression” as the “gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated gender at birth.”
  • It includes in the list of unlawful discriminatory practices discrimination by an employer because of sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
  • It removes from the list of physical or mental impairments that can qualify as protected disabilities homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestism, transsexualism, and gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.
I’m looking for some guidance from the LGBT community on how you feel about the potential inclusion of LGBT statuses as physical or mental impairments. I know that “gender identity disorder” is a psychiatric diagnosis, but I’ve always been under the impression that homosexuality is not. I’m curious to see if there is a backlash to the potential inclusion of these issues as a “disability.”

Otherwise, S.B. 318 is a big step in the right direction. Yet, because of the current Republican composition of Ohio’s legislature, this bill is one that likely will not become law. And that is a shame. It remains incomprehensible and unjustifiable for an employer to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s antithetical to what this country stands for: government of the people, by the people, for the people, and justice for all (no matter with whom the people happen to go to bed at night). Eventually, all governments will make LGBT discrimination a thing of the past. Until then, do right by your employees. Enact policies prohibiting this type of discrimination in your workplace. Send a message that you are an employer of inclusion, and not exclusion.