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LGBTQ+ Center expresses concerns over Senate Bill 83

Courtesy of Meghan Schwind
The university’s LGBTQ+ Center is located in room 024 on the lower level of the Kent State Student Center.

Members of the LGBTQ+ Center have spoken out about protecting members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

In May, Ohio Senate Bill 83 passed the senate after it was revised to exclude people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions from its non-discriminatory language.

When first introduced on March 14, 2023, Senate Bill 83’s non-discrimination policy read:

“Treat all faculty, staff, and students as individuals, hold every individual to equal standards, and provide every individual with equality of opportunity, and the institution shall not treat, advantage, disadvantage, nor segregate any faculty, staff, or students by membership in groups defined by characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;” (lines 638-644).

After being referred to the Higher Education and Workforce Committee, all language referring to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression were removed.

Ken Ditlevson, LGBTQ+ Center director, said he is disappointed Senate Bill 83 does not include protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We do recommend that non-discrimination policies include sex, gender, gender identity and gender expression,” Ditlevson said. “Because then it’s really explicitly stated as a protected class and makes it that those agencies and institutions are going to treat all people with fairness and respect.” 

Ditlevson said he hears of students being misgendered often. 

“The LGBT community faces lots of adversity and having services like this really shows that not just for LGBTQ plus folks but for our community as a whole, it really reduces self harm and suicide attempts,” he said.

Additionally, House Bill 68, which banned gender affirming care for Ohioans under 18 years old, passed on Jan. 24.

Freshman exploratory major Noah Hite, who identifies as non-binary and is on the asexual spectrum, said they feel saddened by the recent wave of legislation targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s tragic how many people don’t want me to exist in the state,” they said.

Despite this, Hite says that the community won’t go down without a fight.

“As bad as it is, I think it’s bringing the community even closer together to fight against this and showing that even if these bills keep passing, we’re not going to give up,” they said.

Sophomore sociology major Rachel Kleinhenz, who interns at the LGBTQ+ center, said that Ohio lawmakers do not stand for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think out of a lot of communities, people see disagreeing with the LGBTQ+ community as the least bad thing that you can disagree with,” she said.

Max, a junior radiology major and intern, said the center is a safe place for everyone, especially members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“The importance of the center is so students know where they can go if they want to discuss anything going on,” they said. “Their life, any concerns, any good things, any bad things.”

The LGBTQ+ Center has information about hormone therapy and gender-affirming care for those who seek it, according to Max.

Currently, Senate Bill 83 is sitting in the Rules and Reference Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives. 

The bill was originally introduced by Ohio Senator Jerry Cirino with the intention of reforming state institutions of higher education, which includes banning mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion training, as well as shortening the terms of trustees on the board. 

Cirino says that the bill’s non-discrimination policy changed as it went through the legislative process but that he views gender identity as “issues of the day.”

“In my view, there are two genders,” he said. “You’re born with a gender.”

Cirino maintains Senate Bill 83 is a non-discrimination bill.

“There are plenty of laws in place, federal and state laws, that should prevent discrimination if the laws are properly enforced,” he said. “We want all students to have an opportunity to get a post secondary education, the very best one that they can get.”

Should Senate Bill 83 see the floor for a vote, it would need a simple majority to pass. Cirino is confident that the bill would pass if brought up.

“Even though I’m in the Senate, I’ve talked with votes in the representatives and we have well over 50 votes to pass this bill,” he said. “We’re hopeful it’ll happen in the next month or so.”

If the bill passes the House, it would be sent back to the Senate for a final vote before being signed by Governor Mike DeWine.

Michael Neenan is a beat reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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Michael Neenan, Reporter
Michael Neenan is a sophomore journalism major who enjoys two things: writing and sports. Contact him at [email protected]

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