CINCINNATI — Critics are calling House Bill 616 Ohio's version of Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill. Rep. Jean Schmidt of Loveland and Rep. Mike Loychik filed the bill titled "Regards promotion, teaching-divisive, inherently racist concepts" Tuesday.
"I was exhausted by yet again another piece of legislation coming from the Ohio statehouse that seeks to erase LGBTQIA people," said Reggie Harris, Cincinnati council member.
After filing HB 616, Reps. Schmidt and Loychik released a joint statement saying the bill aims to give some elementary-age students an education that's "fair, unbiased, age-appropriate and free of political activism."
Critics of the bill in many industries say this won't help the state thrive. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce released a statement saying Ohio needs to be "a welcoming place for all," while the Ohio Education Association echoed those sentiments in a statement that said HB 616 will have "grave consequences."
Harris, who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and worked in education, said he's worried large companies eyeing Ohio or ones that have already made plans, like Intel, might look elsewhere.
"We're going to continue to see this increase of brain drain and talent from our state," Harris said. "People who want to live in inclusive and affirming communities will not find Ohio a friendly place to work."
HB 616 also has a race component, targeting critical race theory, the 1619 Project and equity, diversity and inclusion. Dr. Kareem Moncree Moffett, a member of the Cincinnati Board of Education, sent WCPO a statement saying in part, "Teachers can provide safe connections between school and home with our parents. Rather than try to control our schools and teachers legislators should collaborate and include them in these decisions. "
Now, Harris said changes to the city's non-discrimination code are coming down the pipeline.
"In some ways, it's a small upgrade, but symbolically, I think really important because as our states continue to see to enact discriminatory legislation, Cincinnati is going in the opposite direction and we are pushing to be a more inclusive city," he said.
Harris said the updates to that code are under review from the legal department. He expects to get a draft back in the next two or three weeks. He also said City Council will formally oppose HB 616 with a resolution next week.