I live in Ohio, a state that ranks near the bottom of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia in civil rights for LGBT citizens. Although many Ohio municipalities (including my city of Dayton) have passed anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity, no state wide pro-LGBT legislation has been enacted. Our anti-marriage constitutional amendment is one of the harshest in the country.
There were glimmers of hope during the previous administration of Governor Ted Strickland, who strived for fairness through executive order (EO). One such measure prohibited discrimination in state employment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
John Kasich, our newly elected governor, just issued his own state employment non-discrimination EO. Read more about the statement here. It looks like the previous one. Premature sighs of relief. But wait, there’s a vital two word difference -- gender identity is gone!
When asked about the omission, spokesman Scott Milburn replied: “The governor is opposed to discrimination in state employment and has made that clear in this executive order in the way that he feels is most appropriate.”
I have a theory, entirely my own, about why Governor Kasich did this. Trying to walk a tightrope in a swing state, he opted to both placate and disturb conservatives and progressives. Social conservatives will be upset that sexual orientation is still included but pleased that gender identity is not. Progressives, on the other hand, will be grateful that sexual orientation made the cut while upset that gender identity did not.
Governor Kasich has greatly underestimated the strength of will and tenacity of Ohio LGBT citizens, their friends, families and straight allies. We will not stand by as one segment of our community is singled out for state-sanctioned discrimination. If you are an Ohio resident, contact Governor Kasich’s office at (614) 466-3555 and tell his staff you want gender identity returned to the non-discrimination EO for state employees.