The bill to protect LGBTQ people from housing and employment discrimination is expected to take a big step as a committee prepares to hear from a major supporter - the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The bill also seems to be getting support from the top House leader.
For the first time in nearly ten years the bill to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity will get a second hearing.
The language has taken the form of several bills since 2009, this session it's found in HB160.
Republican House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger sees this as an important step forward on an issue he thinks should be taken seriously.
“I’ve always continued to say I think there’s a way forward in several of those areas and it’s something we’ll continue to look at,” said Rosenberger, who continued. “I think it’s an important step and it’s a bill that’s getting heard and I think I don’t want to diminish it just because the chamber’s come forward on it so I think it’s an important step regardless.”
The last time the bill received more than one hearing was in 2009 when a Democratic-controlled House passed the bill.
Timeline of LGBTQ anti-discrimination legislation:
March 2008: Rep. Dan Stewart (D-Columbus) introduces HB502 in the 127th General Assembly which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation which, according to an analysis of the bill, was described as "heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, or transgenderism, whether actual or perceived."
May 2009: Stewart introduces the legislation again as HB176, this time with Republican co-sponsor Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield). The bill moves through committee and passes the Ohio House, with a Democrat majority, by a vote of 56-38. It then moves to the Republican-controlled Senate where it never receives a hearing.
September 2011: Stewart leaves the House because of term limits, but Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) picks up the bill and introduces HB335 with McGregor as a co-sponsor again. This time Democrats in the Senate, Sens. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) draft a companion piece, SB231. Those bills only receive one hearing each.
May 2013: Antonio and McGregor sponsor HB163 in the House and the bill only gets one hearing. The Senate version finds a Republican sponsor in Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley) with Skindell co-sponsoring. SB125 does not have any hearings in a Senate committee.
November 2015: McGregor was term limited out of the House leaving Antonio to sponsor HB389 with Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). As with any other version of the bill introduced after 2009, the legislation only has one hearing.
March 2017: Antonio sponsors HB160, the last opportunity for the representative serving her last House term. The bill has had one hearing but Antonio, along with other advocates, remain hopeful about the bill's chances with the addition of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce as a proponent.