Ohioans outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on April 28, 2015, the day justices heard oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges, the Cincinnati case that resulted in nationwide marriage equality.

Majorities in every state want gender identity and sexual orientation added to their anti-bias laws.


By Bob Vitale

Of Americans who live in states where discrimination is allowed against LGBTQ people, Ohioans are among the most supportive of anti-bias laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a new national survey of American attitudes on LGBTQ issues. 

The 2017 American Values Atlas, released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute, found opinions in Ohio and around nation shifting dramatically in favor of marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws and against the idea of people being allowed to cite religion as a reason to deny services to LGBTQ people. 


“The country has reached a milestone moment in the debate over LGBT rights,” said Dan Cox, research director at the institute. “At a time when Americans are more divided than ever, the sea change in support for LGBT rights that now crosses lines of race, ethnicity, religion, and geography means that LGBT rights are becoming one of the few areas of public agreement.” 

In Ohio, polling conducted throughout 2017 found that 69 percent of residents think it should be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in employment, housing and public accommodations. That’s almost identical to the national figure of 70 percent who want such discrimination banned. 

Support around the nation ranged from 80 percent in Massachusetts and Utah, both of which have state nondiscrimination laws in place, to 57 percent in Mississippi, which does not. That means every state has a majority of residents who want their laws to protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 


Ohio also is among the 30 states without inclusive nondiscrimination laws, but only in New Hampshire (78 percent), Arizona (73 percent), Wisconsin (73 percent), Florida (71 percent) and Michigan (70 percent) did more residents of discriminatory states want their laws changed. 

State legislators and candidates in this year’s elections should take heed, said Grant Stancliff, spokesman for Equality Ohio. 

“They’ve been doing this for a while now,” Stancliff said of the values atlas. “You can really see year over year where people stand.”  

Currently in Ohio, state Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood has introduced a bill that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to race, gender, age, religion, marital status and other categories covered by existing nondiscrimination laws. The bill received a committee hearing in January, but its success is doubtful in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. 

The three leading Democratic candidates for governor in Tuesday’s primary election—former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni—all say they would sign the Ohio Fairness Act into law. 

Opponents of the bill have focused much of their criticism on claims that it would result in discrimination against people of faith who oppose to LGBTQ civil rights. But the values polls found Ohioans and Americans nationwide don’t buy the argument. 


Sixty percent of Ohioans—and 60 percent of all Americans—say religious beliefs shouldn’t exempt owners of small businesses from nondiscrimination laws. Only in Utah (48 percent), North Dakota (49 percent) and South Dakota (49 percent) did less than half of residents favor religious exemptions to the idea of LGBTQ nondiscrimination. 

On the issue of marriage equality, the 2017 American Values Atlas found a dramatic shift toward acceptance of same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the right should be extended nationwide. 

Americans who strongly favor marriage equality (30 percent) now far outnumber Americans who strongly oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples (14 percent). In 2007, 13 percent strongly favored marriage equality, while 30 percent strongly opposed marriage. 


A majority of Americans in all racial groups support marriage equality for the first time now, the polls found, and a majority of Americans in most religious groups—Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, mainline Protestants and Orthodox Christians—also are marriage equality supporters. 

In Ohio, 61 percent of now favor the right of same-sex couples to marry, a number identical to national support for marriage equality. 

Twitter: @Bob_Vitale