Ohio is among 14 states that lack a hate-crime law that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity. Federal law gives individuals legal protection for bias-motivated acts that are based on those factors. But state law takes precedence if the crime doesn’t pose a threat to interstate or foreign commerce.
Lisa Wurm, of the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Columbus Dispatch that legislation to include nondiscrimination protections has been introduced in the state legislature every year for the past 10 years.
But some lawmakers have been reluctant to approve such legislation over concerns that they were creating special classes. Others have said that hate crimes are not always easy to prove.
“I think some of the problem people have is with the fact that some of these other classifications (such as identifying as gay) are not so demonstrable,” said state Sen. John Eklund, a Chardon Republican.
A hate crime carries a misdemeanor charge in Ohio, which can lead to a sentence of between 30 and 180 days in jail. A hate-crime charge can’t be added if the initial defense is more than misdemeanor, meaning that additional penalties can’t be sought.
State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, introduced a bill in October to alter the state’s nondiscrimination law to include protection in housing, employment and public accommodations for LGBT individuals.
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