January 14, 2019 at 11:29 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Ohio’s new GOP guv signs order against anti-LGBT discrimination
Mike DeWine, Ohio, gay news, Washington Blade
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order against anti-LGBT discrimination. (Photo public domain)

Newly sworn-in Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed on Monday during his first day in office an executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination in state employment.

The directive, Executive Order 2019-05D, is one of six executive orders DeWine signed upon taking office and bars discrimination based on numerous characteristics, including race, color, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age and genetic information.

Ohio is one of 31 states that lacks an explicit statewide law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The order essentially renews the executive order former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another Republican, signed last month before leaving office barring discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, another Republican, also signed an executive order against anti-LGBT discrimination in state employment before leaving office.

Alana Jochum, executive order of Equality Ohio, praised DeWine in a statement for signing the executive order.

“By issuing this executive order protecting state employees, including LGBTQ state employees, from discrimination, Gov. DeWine made a strong statement on his first day that he will be a governor for all Ohioans,” Jochum said. “Ohio is still playing catch-up when it comes to welcoming LGBTQ people –– and we are grateful that the Gov. DeWine, like Gov. Kasich before him, recognizes the need for these common-sense protections in Ohio.”

The order grants multiple avenues of recourse to state government workers in Ohio who believe they’ve been subjected to discrimination in the workforce, such as their supervisors, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The penalty for engaging in discrimination, as spelled out in the order, could be termination from employment “as well as other sanctions that would be applied to illegal discriminatory conduct under Ohio law.”

DeWine’s action stands in contrast to the executive order signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who excluded LGBT people in a non-discrimination that included other categories, including race, religion and sex.

DeWine isn’t the only governor who signed an executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination in his first days in office. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also signed executive orders against anti-LGBT discrimination shortly after being sworn in.

The Ohio Republican’s action may come as a surprise to observers who know his history as a President Trump-supported candidate and an Ohio state attorney general who defended the state’s marriage ban in court.

DeWine fought Jim Obergefell in his effort to obtain for his late spouse who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease a death certificate that recognized the couple as married. That lawsuit, along with others, led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for marriage equality nationwide.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with DeWine’s office seeking comment on why the new governor included sexual orientation and gender identity in his non-discrimination order.

James Knapp, executive director of TransOhio, also thanked DeWine in a statement and called on the legislature to follow up with legislation to make anti-LGBT discrimination illegal.

 “No person should fear being fired from their job for simply being who they are, and today, Gov. DeWine ensured that LGBTQ+ state employees are as free as everybody else to bring their whole selves to work,” Knapp said. “This is a victory for all of Ohio, and we hope that the Ohio legislature will also see the great significance of protecting transgender employees in private empowerment through passage of the Ohio Fairness Act. ”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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