The pride of Leroy Township in Lake County, Ohio, will not be outdone by his colleague Nino Vitale’s Ohio Pastor Protection Act proposal.
State Rep. Ron Young, the Republican representing Ohio’s 61st House District, wants to make sure businesses offering public accommodations are protected in bigotry and free to discriminate against the sexual orientation of potential customers, which, unfortunately, they already are.
Young is asking colleagues to support him in proposing a Conscience Rights Protections for Businesses bill.
“The recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges will create unintended consequences for many Ohioans who want to follow their deeply held beliefs,” Young warned, with inside sources saying he may or may not have delivered this line to colleagues in the House chamber cloakroom while waggling his fingers cryptically and intoning, “boogie woogie woogie woogie.”
Displaying a concerning lack of familiarity with current Ohio law, Young is apparently under the impression that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on equal marriage rights does something to overturn the fact that Ohio Revised Code offers no protection on the basis of sexual orientation.
While it is now legal for same-sex couples to marry in Ohio, and the state must recognize these marriages, state law still permits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation both in employment and public accommodation. So Ohio businesses, under state law, can fire people for identifying as LGBT, as well as refuse to serve LGBT customers.
Warren County Republican Chris Romano took full advantage of this fact earlier this year by refusing to accommodate a lesbian couple at his wedding venue business.
While sexual orientation is not a protected classification in Ohio, religion is, which Young (and Vitale for that matter) seem to prefer to ignore.
“Although the case stated that the decision was not intended to force people to do things outside of their conscience, the unfortunate reality is that this may still happen,” he said. “Because of this, I will soon introduce a bill to protect the rights of conscience for business entities and their employees.”
Did you hear that? It may happen—might, maybe, possibly, could happen. And what is it that may, might, maybe, possibly, could happen? Public demand for businesses open to the public to accommodate the whole public? The horror! The Horror!
The Republican push against public accommodation law extends well beyond the LGBT community, with the libertarian wing still fighting vehemently against even the Civil Rights Act, having never accepted the lunch counter debate as settled.
Back to Young:
“Specifically, my bill would ensure that businesses would not be required to participate in ceremonies that create a union between two persons of the same sex if doing so would violate their rights of conscience or freedom of religion,” he said. “The bill also protects the business and employees from criminal and civil liability.”
In the world of sport this is called showboating: when your team is already up by 20 points in the game of legal protection for private discrimination against the LGBT community, and you want to dunk the ball and strut around the court peacocking and showing your ass. It’s garish, and unseemly.
It also serves as a nice reminder that while the forces of Equal Rights scored a big victory in Obergfell, the Fourteenth Amendment has promises to keep and we have miles to go before we sleep.
Ohio law protects against discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, and military status, but not sexual orientation.
So not only are Young and Vitale’s proposals unnecessary and redundant, they would seek to grant anti-LGBT discrimination not only implicitly, but explicitly, at a time Ohio needs to be moving in the very opposite direction.
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.