Commentary

01.22.16

Terms of Equality: Housing and Employment

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Did you know that gay and transgender people in Ohio can be fired or denied housing simply for who they are or who they love?

After the marriage equality ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, LGBT rights activists have continued to raise awareness about the vulnerability of gay and transgender people in the workplace. Currently in Ohio, private businesses can fire their employees for no other reason than who they love or how they express their gender. This was the case with Carla Hale, who was fired from her job as a teacher after 19 years because the school found out that she was a lesbian.

Employees have harassed their coworkers without facing legal penalties, which happened to an Ohio bus driver who was harassed by his coworkers for being gay. The court ruled that, since sexual orientation is not a protected class in the law, he had no legal recourse for the harassment. This may come as a surprise, since most Ohioans think that sexual orientation is already a protected class. The reality is that many places in this country lack such protections.

There are many more stories of LGBT people living in fear because of the knowledge that they are not protected under the law. A man named Jake told the New York Times that he eats lunch in his car every day to avoid his coworkers because he is afraid that he will lose his job or be harassed if they find out that he is gay.

We have come a long way in the fight for equal rights for LGBT people in this country. However, there are still several basic protections that are missing–protections against being denied access to public services, being evicted from your home, and being fired from your job solely based on who your partner is or how you express your gender.

Ohio also lacks laws that protect LGBT people from housing discrimination. One of the ways this discrimination manifests is in different treatment for same-sex couples seeking housing. A study done in Akron, Ohio showed that, even after a local ordinance outlawed housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, there were significant disparities in how same-sex couples were treated compared to opposite-sex couples when seeking an apartment. This is not the only version of housing discrimination. In many parts of Ohio, landlords are able to legally evict tenants based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

We have come a long way in the fight for equal rights for LGBT people in this country. However, there are still several basic protections that are missing–protections against being denied access to public services, being evicted from your home, and being fired from your job solely based on who your partner is or how you express your gender. The absence of legal protections against these forms of discrimination causes real harm. We need a legislature that will protect Ohioans from discrimination by updating our laws to include people who are gay or transgender. Leaving things as they are is treating others in a way we would never want to be treated.

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