On April 16, 2014, The Ohio Board of Education (BOE) voted to exclude sexual orientation from its nondiscrimination policy, sending a clear message to LGBT educators; you are not welcome or valued in Ohio classrooms.
Right now in Ohio, teachers can be fired simply for being perceived as gay, lesbian, or transgender. The Ohio BOE has chosen to give these educators zero protections or legal courses of action.
Some school districts have attempted to remedy this problem by including sexual orientation and gender identity in their local nondiscrimination policies. But the Ohio (BOE) has repeatedly refused to do so.
Many Ohioans are asking the BOE to add LGBT educators to the list of those protected from discrimination in Ohio schools. Supporters include a former educator fired because someone merely suspected she was gay, and Equality Ohio.
Some board members claim they are worried that protecting LGBT educators will infringe on the religious beliefs of other people. Translation: they think these people should be allowed to use their religion as a justification for controlling and ultimately harming others.
Like state legislators in Arizona and Ohio, some members of the BOE are still under the mistaken impression that religion should be used as a sword and not a shield.
Public schools should not be using anyone’s religious belief as an excuse to discriminate against other people.
For the time being, the BOE is able to hide behind a sad reality. Ohio has no anti-discrimination law protecting sexual orientation or gender identity.
Someday that will change.
In the meantime Governor John Kasich has already signed a 2011 executive order renewing state worker’s protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Ohio BOE could be following the lead of the executive office, which has been protecting sexual orientation since 1983. Instead they are choosing to exploit the lack of modern discrimination laws until they are eventually forced by the legislature or the courts to provide LGBT educators with their basic civil rights.
Step by step, our state is marching toward full equality for all people.
The sooner the Ohio Board of Education realizes this reality, the better off everyone will be.