Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lawmakers reluctant to add LGBT to Ohio’s hate-crime law | The Columbus Dispatch

Last year, many people celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down bans on same-sex marriage. But advocates say there is more to be done to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Ohioans can still be discriminated against in employment, housing, and public accommodation based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and in many parts of Ohio, they lack the ability to charge suspects with hate crimes, as was done in Conley’s case.

Lisa Wurm of the ACLU of Ohio said legislation to include nondiscrimination protections has been introduced in the state legislature every year for the past 10 years, and more than 70 percent of Ohioans think the law already exists.

“With marriage (equality) comes some additional actions that need to be followed up,” Wurm said.

But some groups in the state say that adding protections for LGBT individuals constitutes special treatment.

Federal law expanded in 2009 to give individuals legal protection for bias-motivated acts based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other factors, but under the law, prosecution happens only if the crime poses a threat to interstate or foreign commerce. If neither is at play, state law takes precedence.

In Ohio, this means that hate crimes — referred to as “ethnic intimidation” in the Ohio Revised Code — based on sexual orientation, gender identity and even disability often are not prosecuted because they are not included in the state law.

Besides Ohio, 13 other states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, lack a hate-crime law that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio also is one of 28 states that do not provide protection in employment, housing and public accommodation.

An executive order by then-Gov. Ted Strickland in 2007 made it illegal to discriminate against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity; in 2011, Gov. John Kasich continued the order but removed gender identity from the list of protected groups.

At the time of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, Kasich said Ohio’s anti-discrimination laws were sufficient without the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lawmakers reluctant to add LGBT to Ohio’s hate-crime law | The Columbus Dispatch

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