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Senator Introduces Ohio GLB Equal Rights Bill

Measure Joins Another in Ohio House as State's First

[COLUMBUS] - A Cleveland-area state senator has introduced a bill to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual Ohioans from discrimination.

Senate Bill 77 was introduced April 29 by State Sen. Dan Brady, who represents Clevelands west side and west suburbs.

"Job discrimination and denial of economic opportunity on the basis of sexual orientation should be prohibited in this state," said Brady. "And victims of this kind of discrimination, no matter what their orientation, deserve protection under the law. Human rights are for everybody."

If passed, the bill will prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, public accomodations, housing, and credit.

Ohio law already prohibits discrimination in those areas based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, ancestry, disability, and national origin.

Bradys bill inserts "sexual orientation" into each section of the Ohio Revised Code where the other categories are currently listed.

"Sexual orientation" is defined as "homosexuality, bisexuality, or heterosexuality, whether the orientation is real or perceived."

Like the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act the bill was modeled after, it does not include protection for gender identity. However, according to Bradys legislative aide Tom Meyer, it was supposed to.

"The Legislative Services Commission drafted the bill according to Sen. Bradys specifications, and was to include transgenders," said Meyer. "It is his intention to include the entire rainbow in the human rights bill."

Meyer said the bill can be amended during the committee hearings.

A similar measure was introduced in the Ohio House in March by Cleveland Democrat Dale Miller. His House Bill 147 includes gender identity.

The two bills are the first of their kind ever introduced into the Ohio House or Senate.

Co-sponsors of Bradys bill are Senate Democratic Leader Greg DiDonato of New Philadelphia, Leigh Herington of Ravenna, Marc Dann of Liberty, Robert Hagan of Youngstown, Teresa Fedor of Toledo, C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland, and Eric Fingerhut of Shaker Heights. All are Democrats.

The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary Civil Justice Committee, which is chaired by Republican Sen. David Goodman of Columbus. Herington is the ranking Democrat on that committee.

The bill provides an exemption to religious and fraternal organizations, which are already exempted from civil rights laws protecting race, color, religion, sex, familial status, ancestry, disability, and national origin.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission would be responsible for enforcement of the law, as well as regular reporting as to the effect of discrimination based on sexual orientation throughout the state.

Brady said his bill is a counter to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act introduced in the Ohio Senate in March. That bill would deny recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions made in another state, and could outlaw domestic partner benefits in Ohio.

"It is time to put the right on the defensive and make them answer questions as to why they dont support basic civil rights," said Brady.

Presently, 14 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation in their civil rights laws. Three also include gender identity. Eleven Ohio cities have similar ordinances, covering a sixth of the states population.

Brady expects Goodman to schedule hearings on the bill soon.

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