Prizm News / January 14, 2019 / By Bob Vitale
Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression remain in policy that governs state hiring and promotions.
By Bob Vitale
Before he even arrived in Columbus today to take his ceremonial oath of office, Ohio’s new governor issued an executive order that bars state government from discriminating against its own employees on the basis of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
The move, coming shortly after midnight when Mike DeWine was sworn in at his home in Cedarville, allayed fears that the incoming governor would undo a nondiscrimination order issued in December by now-former Gov. John Kasich.
Instead, DeWine did in minutes what it took Kasich seven years and 11 months to do. When Kasich took office in 2011, he deleted transgender state workers from an executive order that had been issued by his predecessor. He added gender identity and expression back into state policy last month.
“It shall be the policy of my administration to prohibit unlawful and inappropriate discriminatory employment practices in state government and to ensure that all state government employees have employment opportunities based upon their talent, skill, dedication, merit and fitness for the job,” DeWine’s order states.
The order calls the issue of nondiscrimination “a matter of basic human decency.” The nondiscrimination policy also covers race, color, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age, pregnancy, parenthood, foster parenthood and genetic information.
It applies to state government employees’ hiring, transfers, promotions and demotions, eligibility for training, pay, layoffs, and termination.
DeWine’s order fulfills a campaign promise to keep state government’s existing internal policy on nondiscrimination, even though that policy changed between his election in November and his inauguration today as Ohio’s 70th governor.
It’s also an early reason for hope among LGBTQ advocates that the Republican might chart a different course on equality and civil rights than he did during his years as a U.S. senator and Ohio’s attorney general. In previous offices, DeWine opposed funding for gay community health centers to serve people with AIDS, opposed expansion of federal and state nondiscrimination laws, and fought marriage equality for same-sex couples.
“No person should fear being fired from their job for simply being who they are, and today, Governor DeWine ensured that LGBTQ+ state employees are as free as everybody else to bring their whole selves to work,” TransOhio Executive Director James Knapp said.
Equality Ohio Executive Director Alana Jochum added:
“By issuing this executive order protecting state employees, including LGBTQ state employees, from discrimination, Governor DeWine made a strong statement on his first day that he will be a governor for all Ohioans. Ohio is still playing catch-up when it comes to welcoming LGBTQ people––and we are grateful that Governor DeWine, like Governor Kasich before him, recognizes the need for these common-sense protections in Ohio.”
While DeWine’s order covers more than 50,000 state workers, it has no effect on state law. Ohio is one of 30 states whose nondiscrimination laws exclude sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and local laws protect just 27 percent of the state’s population.
State Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, has introduced legislation since 2011 that would expand Ohio law.