For the second time in less than a month, a Republican governor in Ohio has signed a nondiscrimination order protecting LGBTQ state employees.
The executive order was one of six signed by incoming Gov. Mike DeWine during an inauguration ceremony held shortly after midnight on Monday. It upholds an order signed by former Gov. John Kasich in December, one which extended state-level employment protections to Ohio’s LGBTQ community for the first time.
The order signed Monday expanded on the earlier measure by adding three protected classes: pregnant people, foster parents, and parents of young children.
“We said we were going to hit the ground running,” DeWine said during the swearing in.
LGBTQ groups hailed the governor’s decision to keep the Kasich order, as many feared it may be in jeopardy under the new administration. As the state’s attorney general, DeWine defended Ohio’s marriage ban in court, facing off against SCOTUS marriage equality plaintiff Jim Obergefell.
The advocacy group TransOhio called the nondiscrimination order a “victory for all of Ohio.”
“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,” added Equality Ohio Executive Director Alana Jochum said in a press release.
However, Jochum noted the Buckeye State “is still playing catch up when it comes to welcoming LGBTQ people.”
Currently, Ohio is one of 30 states which lacks fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections at the statewide level. The Ohio Fairness Act, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s list of protected classes, stalled in the state legislature last year.
Supporters claim the proposal is gaining momentum, despite conservative opposition in the lawmaking body. HB 160 reportedly received the support of hundreds of local businesses during the 2018 legislative session.
LGBTQ advocates hope DeWine’s support leads to further bipartisan action on the issue.
“Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are coming together to affirm what we all know to be true: Our nation is at strongest when everyone is able to live their lives without the fear of discrimination,” claimed Freedom for All Americans CEO Masen Davis in a statement.
“Governor DeWine’s executive order is an important step toward comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people in Ohio and nationwide,” he added.
DeWine is one of a handful of first-term governors to sign an executive order forbidding bias against LGBTQ employees already this year. He is joined by Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers, both of whom are Democrats.
Republican Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan, signed a nondiscrimination order shortly before leaving office in 2018.