Supreme Court bans LGBT job discrimination: What that means for Ohio businesses

Attendees at a previous Dayton gay pride celebration carry a rainbow flag. FILE PHOTO

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision Monday is expected to have a big impact for the estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers across the country because most states, including Ohio, don’t protect them from workplace discrimination.

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The court decided in a 6-3 vote that a key provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — Title VII that prohibits job discrimination because of sex — includes bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“The court decision creates more chaos and confusion and will inevitably lead to more litigation,” said Aaron Baer of Citizens for Community Values, the group that spearheaded amending Ohio’s constitution to ban gay marriage in 2004. He added, “This was judges acting as policy makers, instead of as judges. Policy makers are debating this very question right now.”

Pending in the Ohio General Assembly are two bills that call for prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The effort to add those protections to Ohio law has spanned more than a decade.

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“While today’s ruling is significant, it is not the solution to provide full LGBTQ equality. Now more than ever, we need to pass the Ohio Fairness Act (S.B. 11/ H.B. 369), which reaffirms that LGBTQ people should be able to work, live and play without discrimination,” said state Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood. “It is time for Ohio to take a stand and affirm that it welcomes all workers and families, including those from the LGBTQ community. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and almost 1,000 businesses agree that if we want to re-energize Ohio’s economy, we need to pass the Ohio Fairness Act.”

Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Chris Kershner said his organization backs that legislation and that members see it as a way to formalize the non-discrimination policies already in place in their businesses. He added that non-discrimination policies are an economic development tool for attracting businesses to Ohio and the Dayton area.

In recent years, some lower courts have held that discrimination against LGBT people is a subset of sex discrimination, and thus prohibited by the federal law.

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Efforts by Congress to change the law have so far failed.

The Supreme Court cases involved two gay men and a transgender woman who sued for employment discrimination after they lost their jobs.

Montgomery County has about 30,000 LGBT residents, according to Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County. The health district applauded the court ruling in a statement, saying no one should be denied or lose employment because of who they are or who they love.

“Stable income is an important social determinant of health for people, particularly in our country because health insurance and health care are often tied to employment,” Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeff said in the statement.

June is LGBTQ pride month.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

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