Before we get into the meat of this post, I want to make sure the reader understands the state of current law: In Ohio, there is no statewide non-discrimination protection for LGBT employees. (You may recall that the Ohio House of Representatives passed a statewide ENDA bill in 2009. Ohio Senate leaders refused to allow a vote, and the bill died at the end of the session last December.)
Discrimination in hiring because of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression is 100% allowed by Ohio law, and no Executive Order can change that. The issue we’ll be looking at for the rest of this post is about people for whom the state of Ohio is their direct employer. Guards in Ohio prisons, office workers in the state house, construction workers on Ohio roads, etc.
New Republican Governor John Kasich began his term under fire when Gay People’s Chronicle reported that Kasich had failed to issue an Executive Order protecting state employees from workplace discrimination. Outgoing governor Ted Strickland’s Executive Order 2007-10S, which protected LGBT workers, expired when he left office.
On Friday, Governor Kasich (R) finally issued an order protecting LGB state employees with Executive Order 2011-05K, which unexpectedly and unnecessarily removed gender expression and gender identity from the list of protected qualities.
Frustrated at this ridiculous change in law, I decided to do the civic-minded thing and contact my governor. I actually ended up emailing Robert Nichols, press secretary for Gov. Kasich (R), and copied Felicia Godbolt and Melinda Carter of Ohio’s Equal Employment Opportunity office and Dan Kaman of the Department of Administrative Services. (Because hey, why not.)
Here’s my email to Mr. Nichols:
Regarding Governor Kasich’s Executive Order 2011-05K, there is some question as to missing content. This order, which replaced former Governor Strickland’s non-discrimination order, notably fails to protect employees from gender identity or expression discrimination, as Mr. Strickland’s did.
Please clarify: Has Gov. Kasich decided to roll back protection of transgender state workers? Should they fear for their livelihoods? If this is, as I hope, a simple oversight, will Gov. Strickland rectify the error in the next week?
Matthew D. Algren
Minutes later, I received this reply:
The governor is opposed to discrimination in state employment and has made that clear in this executive order in the way that he feels is most appropriate.
I sent an email back seeking further clarification that Gov. Kasich (R) thinks discrimination against trans people is “appropriate,” but I don’t expect to hear back. My question was clear enough, and Mr. Nichols’ answer was clear as well.
So that’s where we stand tonight. For the first time in four years and with the stroke of a pen, one Republican has endangered the livelihoods of any of our Trans sisters and brothers who currently or potentially work for the State of Ohio, and he did it because . . . Well, because he could.
(He also appointed the state’s first ALL WHITE cabinet since 1962, but I’m sure that’s not at all relevant and I digress…)
The only question I have is this: As lesbian, bi, and gay people, do we stand with the trans members of our family, or are we just thankful that we made the cut this time?
I know my answer. We cannot allow Gov. Kasich (R) to treat us like this. We are one family, one community. In Christian terms, we are one body. I’m not sure what standing with them on this looks like yet, but the choice is clear.
Will you join me?