Prizm News / December 19, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

His move to protect state employees hands the issue to Gov.-elect Mike DeWine, who takes office in January.

 

By Bob Vitale

 

With less than a month to go before he leaves office, Gov. John Kasich has revised one of his first official acts as Ohio’s leader and added gender identity to a nondiscrimination order that covers state government employees.

“All persons employed by the state of Ohio should be treated with the utmost respect and civility by their fellow state employees and are entitled to enjoy a workplace free of discrimination,” the order states.

When he took office in January 2011, Kasich quickly removed gender identity, though, from an executive order that had been issued by his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland. His spokesman offered no explanation at the time to The Columbus Dispatch, other than to say Kasich expressed his opposition to discrimination “in the way that he feels is most appropriate.”

Now he’ll hand the issue to his successor, fellow Republican Mike DeWine, who will be sworn into office on Jan. 14. DeWine vowed before the November election that he would “continue current state policy against discrimination for state employees.”

As Ohio’s attorney general, DeWine maintained an office policy that barred discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation but not their gender identity or expression.

LGBTQ groups focused on Kasich’s action today and not what might come in a little over three weeks under DeWine.

“We applaud Governor Kasich for his leadership in ensuring that transgender and genderqueer Ohioans have the employment protections they deserve,” Equality Ohio said in a written statement. “This leadership has never been more important. At a time when the basic rights of transgender people to exist in public, to serve in our military and to access basic health care are at risk, we thank Governor Kasich for his recognition of our shared humanity with these common-sense protections.”

James Knapp, executive director of TransOhio, said in a news release issued by Equality Ohio: “This is truly an important and historic day, not just for the transgender community but for the entire state. Today, our Governor stood up and said that workplace discrimination will not be tolerated in Ohio. We are proud to have been a part of this work, and we’re thrilled that state employees will be able to enter 2019 as their authentic selves without fear of unlawful termination.”

Kasich’s order covers only people employed by state government and people seeking state employment. It covers hiring, termination, layoffs, transfers, promotions and demotions, pay raises, and eligibility for further training.

In addition to sexual orientation, the order it replaces also covered race, color, religion, gender, national origin, current or former military service, disability, age and genetic information.

The order doesn’t cover people employed in the private sector or in government jobs not controlled by the state.

Ohio is one of 28 states whose nondiscrimination laws exclude both gender identity and sexual orientation. Local laws in Ohio cities cover just 27 percent of state residents in communities that include Cuyahoga County, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and Dayton.

As part of its push for a more inclusive, statewide law, Equality Ohio has sent Kasich letters every week since March 2017, when the governor told reporters from The Plain Dealer in Cleveland that he didn’t want people in Ohio to be discriminated but “I haven’t heard much about” discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The letters to Kasich were from LGBTQ Ohioans who had been fired, not hired, kicked out of their homes or denied service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“He heard this call, and we are grateful for Governor Kasich’s leadership in extending nondiscrimination protections for transgender state employees,” Equality Ohio Executive Director Alana Jochum said.

The action also boosts Kasich’s image as a moderate alternative to Donald Trump should he challenge the president in Republican primaries or run as an independent in 2020.

bobvitale@prizmnews.com