What LGBTQ Rights Exist in Ohio?

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community or an ally, you probably already know that June is Pride Month. But do you know the full extent of rights that people in the LGBTQ community actually have? 

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. A lot of people celebrated the ruling, myself included, and rightfully so. It was a monumental change and a monumental interpretation of the law that is unquestionably going to have a monumental impact on the world. The only problem though is that the ruling didn’t really change state law. It just focused on changing the interpretation of federal law claims brought under Title VII claims.

Key Differences between Ohio and Federal Discrimination Claims

There are some key differences between Ohio and federal law discrimination claims brought under Title VII.  Title VII  applies for employers who have 15 or more workers and state law claims like in Ohio discrimination laws apply for workers or employers that have four or more workers. So by definition, the Ohio anti-discrimination laws apply to more employers and therefore protect more individuals than Title VII. 

There are also differences in how you start a claim and the type of damages that can be awarded depending on if you have an Ohio or Title VII claim for discrimination. For example, in Ohio, you have to initiate a claim by filing with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Alternatively for a Title VII claim, you need to first file a claim in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While both processes are fairly similar, the differences are important and can be nuanced. 

Current Protections for LGBTQ Community in Ohio

Although the Supreme Court did not talk about state law claims, that does not mean that there are no protections at all for people in the LGBTQ community in Ohio. There are different counties that have made different anti-discrimination statutes. Similarly, there are different cities who have discrimination statutes or ordinances

Unsurprisingly, the three big C’s in Ohio– Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati– all prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Dayton, Toledo, and Akron are also notably on the list. But other cities and counties who have enacted discrimination statutes sometimes place limitations on the scope of their protection based on if you are a private or public employee.

Future Protections for LGBTQ Community in Ohio

Right now, there is one big initiative to make it illegal in Ohio to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And that’s with the Ohio Fairness Act. The Ohio Fairness Act would essentially make Ohio law so that it is not at odds with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Title VII protections for LGBTQ individuals. It would not only provide protections in the context of the workplace, but also prevent discrimination in housing and public accommodations. Thankfully, there is growing support for the Ohio Fairness Act. Hopefully we’ll see it get passed soon and Ohio will push forward towards more equal rights and protections for all of its citizens.

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James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.