Prizm News / April 30, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster)
(Photo courtesy of Ohio Legislature)

April saw a ton of Ohio-based activity with the potential to affect LGBTQ rights

By Ken Schneck

A Minor Drag

Ohio State Representative Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) has somehow found the time to focus on drag shows. 

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Following the release of a video of a 9-year-old’s drag performance at a December charity event at a Fairfield County bar, Schaffer introduced legislation “to prohibit a performance in which a child simulates sexual activity and, if the offender is a D liquor permit holder, to require the court to order the revocation of the permit.” 

The proposed new language seeks to update already existing code to define sexual material as “performance that shows a minor simulating sexual activity, masturbation, or bestiality and that, taken as a whole by the average person applying contemporary community standards, appeals to prurient interest.” 

Child Drag Queen E! The Dragnificent poses with performer Amoxie Villain at a Spring Variety Show in Ohio on April 6th.
(Photo courtesy of Dre’ Varela)

The legislation has set social media aflame, with innumerable viral posts debating the ambiguity of “sexual activity” and “prurient interest,” specifically questioning whether this language would apply as equally to LGBTQ-related performances as it would to, say, child beauty pageants. 

The proposal currently sits in the House Commerce and Labor Committee. 

Protecting Youth

Though conversion/reparative therapy has been thoroughly discredited by the American Medical Association as both ineffective and legitimately harmful, the practice has only been banned in 16 US states. Ohio is seeking to join the list as State Senator Tina Maharath has introduced language to outlaw conversion therapy. 

Senator Tina Maharath (D-Columbus)
(Photo courtesy of Ohio Legislature)

If passed, Senate Bill 130 would specifically legislate that “an applicant or health care professional shall not engage in conversion therapy when providing mental health treatment to a minor patient.”  Failure to comply with the language could result in the suspension or revocation of the provider’s license. 

Athens, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati already ban the practice. 23 other states have introduced similar bills this year alone, with the Minnesota House approving a bill just last week that has been passed on to that state’s Senate. 

Supreme Battle Ahead

The next battleground for LGBTQ legal protections will take place in front of 9 black robes as the Supreme Court gave notice last week that it would hear three cases on workplace discrimination. One of those cases originated here in the Buckeye state when Aimee Stephens successfully sued an Ohio chain of funeral homes. Stephens was fired for violating her employer’s dress code after seeking to wear women’s clothes. The owner’s defense was based in “religious beliefs” that did not support Stephens identity a trans women. 

The Roberts Court, November 30, 2018. Seated, from left to right: Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel A. Alito. Standing, from left to right: Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh.
(Photograph by Fred Schilling, Supreme Court Curator’s Office)

This case will result in the Supreme Court’s first major ruling on trans rights. At issue is whether sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans discrimination based on “sex.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has previously affirmed that the LGBTQ community is protected in the workplace due to the legislation. The Trump administration has argued that such discrimination is not outlawed and is thus permissible.