House panel revises anti-discrimination bill in light of Supreme Court ruling

Provided by Hannah News Service

The House Civil Justice Committee heard testimony Nov. 19 on the latest proposal to add protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to Ohio’s civil rights laws. Dozens of opponents spoke or submitted remarks, while a smaller group of proponents urged passage, following a February hearing where hundreds of witnesses had urged support of House Bill 369.

The Ohio Society of CPAs supports a similar bill, SB 11, that is pending in the Senate. The move to back the bill came upon the unanimous recommendation of The Ohio Society’s CPA-led Government Relations Advisory Council and the unanimous vote of its Executive Board. Other notable organizations supporting the bill include the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association and the Ohio United Way. Furthermore, OSCPA and many of its members belong to OhioBusinessCompetes, a coalition of more than 600 business entities committed to achieving an inclusive work climate to help Ohio’s economy.

The committee led off by accepting a substitute bill that pared the legislation from 100-plus pages to seven, seeking to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, a 6-3 ruling written by Justice Neil Gorsuch that found federal civil rights law protects employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Rep. Mike Skindell, D-Lakewood, a joint sponsor, said the introduced version of the bill amended sections throughout the Ohio Revised Code, but the substitute version simply defines sex discrimination in one section, making it easier to follow.

Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said the substitute bill represented “great progress” in comparison to the introduced version, but said it needed further changes, though he did not object to accepting the revised version as the committee’s working document.

Seitz suggested further changes should specifically reference Bostock, prospective adoption of other U.S. Supreme Court cases on the topic and the holdings in recent rulings on religious freedom, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

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