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Policy Matters Ohio

LGBT rights and the state economy

May 25, 2016

LGBT rights and the state economy

May 25, 2016

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In the wake of North Carolina’s notorious “bathroom bill, we’ve been hearing a lot about which bathroom transgender folks should have to use. What gets less attention are the jobs available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, especially considering the same bill also eliminated all LGBT discrimination protections throughout the state.

Ohio has often supported policies to protect workers, ensure good jobs, and promote a fair economy. Yet Ohio has no state laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That means LGBT people can legally be denied employment, housing and public services.

Fortunately, dozens of Ohio cities and counties have passed LGBT anti-discrimination laws to protect workers, promote a better business climate, and improve the local economy. An anti-discrimination law at the state level, similar to those passed at the local level, would benefit Ohio workers, employers and the state economy. It’s good for business. Not only that, it’s the right thing to do.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that 21 percent of LGBT respondents nationally had experienced workplace discrimination in hiring, pay or promotions. Ohio also has a host of lawsuits that document instances of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, according the Williams Institute. The impact of such discrimination is lower wages. The Williams Institute found that same-sex male couples, despite having higher levels of education, have a lower median income than heterosexual couples. Providing LGBT protections could help an estimated 328,000 LGBT adults in Ohio, 65 percent of whom are part of the workforce. Passing employment non-discrimination laws would also serve the Ohio economy by welcoming all workers and boosting economic development.

Twenty-nine Ohio cities and counties have passed some form of LGB or LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances (more information here). The state of Ohio protects public employees on the basis of sexual orientation, but it leaves out gender identity and the protection does not extend to private sector employees. In November 2015, Representatives Nickie Antonio and Denise Driehaus, along with dozens of cosponsors, introduced the Ohio Fairness Act to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public services. Such laws have been introduced in Ohio’s legislature every year for the past ten years, according to the ACLU of Ohio. None of those efforts have passed, yet 80 percent of Ohioans believe that LGBT protections exist in the state.

In the corporate world there has been an ever-increasing push for workplace diversity, which is linked to lower costs, higher revenue, and better job performance. In Ohio, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Quality Index 2016, 15 of 31 ranked companies received top scores for their inclusive policies, and 9 of these 15 were ranked in the Fortune 1000. Many businesses have realized that inclusive policies help them recruit the best workers that the economy has to offer and increased their consumer bases.

Legal protections would help boost the economy by including all workers equally, and maximizing the productivity potential of the state. This would also help businesses recruit the most talented and qualified candidates for the job, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Finally, individuals would benefit by having access to jobs and higher incomes as well as having the legal means to fight discrimination they might face.

Gov. John Kasich has said he would not sign a bill micromanaging which bathroom transgender people use. This is smart because a similar law in North Carolina has unleashed a storm of backlash from business and the federal government that that could cost the state millions in lost revenue and federal funding.

But it’s time to do more to avoid bigotry. Ohio should oppose discrimination and embrace progress by moving forward on long-overdue anti-discrimination legislation as 20 states and the District of Columbia have done. Many Ohioans care deeply about protecting and respecting workers. Let’s make sure that LGBT Ohioans can work, contribute to the economy, and enrich their communities without fear of workplace and other discrimination.

-- Drew Canfield

Drew Canfield






Drew is a former Policy Matters research intern. 



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