COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A proposed LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill is being supported by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
“The business community stands firmly behind supporting this legislation,” said vice president of government relations for the Chamber Holly Gross.
She said House Bill 160, or the Ohio Fairness Act, will make the state more economically competitive.
“It will help us attract mega-economic development projects like Amazon and other like-minded companies that really do care about diversity and inclusion,” she said.
Gross said corporations like Amazon make decisions on where they want to locate based on laws like HB 160.
“When they’re thinking about recruiting, retaining, relocating 50,000 individuals they want to make sure that they set roots in a state that will be welcoming and afford protections for their entire workforce and their entire potential labor pool,” she said.
Gross said employers are also paying more attention to the millennial population.
“This is a no-brainer issue for them. Whether or not they’re a member of the LGBTQ community themselves, they want to work for companies that share their own values,” she said.
But, not everyone agrees it should become law including Aaron Baer, president of the conservative group Citizens For Community Values.
“A law like HB 160 really decimates our free speech rights and our religious freedom rights,” he said. “We don’t want anybody feeling oppressed or discriminated against, but when we’re talking about government policies coming in, we’ve got to look at the consequences of that and we see laws like HB 160 causing problems all across the country for businesses, for people of faith, for women, for children.”
Baer said Ohio already is a tolerant state.
“House Bill 160 is a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “Nobody supports discrimination in any of it’s forms, but when we look at HB 160 would do, it would create a lot of problems trying to fix an issue that’s not rampant in Ohio.”
Board chair for the Equality Ohio Education Fund Sandra Anderson said the bill does not change existing law for freedom of religion and religious exemptions.
She said that state-wide, non-discrimination protections are needed.
“At Equality Ohio, every day we get calls from LGBTQ citizens who have been bullied, fired, harassed, denied services, school, work, housing,” said Anderson. “We hear their complaints every day and there’s no legal recourse under the law currently for them.”
She said the Ohio Civil Rights Commission also receives complaints that currently cannot be investigated.
“Marriage equality is the law of the land, including in Ohio. A person can get married, post their wedding pictures on Facebook and in Ohio risk being fired from the job, evicted from their housing, denied services in a restaurant and that’s just not right,” said Anderson.
HB 160 was introduced in March 2017. There’s no timeline on when it will be revisited at the Statehouse.