What you must know about Ohio Senate Bill 134

SB 134 and its companion bill HB 149 hand Ohio discrimination remedies over to the federal government, meaning in practice that property owners and victims of discrimination will be forced into litigation. Also, SB 149 leaves some discrimination victims with no remedies at all.

SB 134 hurts families with children, veterans and people with disabilities. SB 134 is bad both for Ohio’s housing providers and for Ohio’s housing consumers.

Contact your state senator now — and tell your senator to reject SB 134. To get your senator’s contact info and to see a sample email, look at the Advocacy box on this page.

To get more information about SB 134, keep reading.

SB 134 protects landlords who discriminate
and threatens the Ohio Civil Rights Commission

In 2014, at the same time the nation was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act, a senate bill that would have protected discrimination was quietly hunting for co-sponsors.

The irony of the introduction of SB 349 last year was not lost on advocates representing fair housing, legal aid and disability rights groups — all of whom denounced the bill as an attack on civil rights and an erosion of strong fair housing laws in Ohio. Luckily, SB 349 died in last year’s General Assembly session without any hearings or activity.

Unfortunately, Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is back again with SB 134, which is different but just as costly to the State of Ohio and just as erosive to the hard-won civil rights laws that have been enshrined in the Ohio Revised Code for more than 25 years—since 1989.

Like its predecessor, SB 134 is univerally denounced by advocates, attorneys and disability groups as an unnecessary piece of legislation that panders to the brazen assertion that housing discrimination should actually be tolerated in Ohio. SB 134 makes an artificial distinction between so-called “actual” discrimination and that discrimination which is proven by time-tested controlled investigations run by private fair housing organizations.

Among other regressive measures, the bill would lower the penalties for housing discrimination and damage the important safeguards provided by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Ohio residents would either need to use the administrative process provided on the federal level through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or be forced to use attorneys to sue violators in state court. In addition, Ohio law would no longer be “substantially equivalent” to federal law, thus ending substantial HUD funding to our state.

Specifically, the bill:

Ohio civil rights attorneys and fair housing advocates
speak out against SB 134

“Both the Federal Fair Housing Act and Ohio’s fair housing statue embody national and state policies of the highest priority. We need to move forward and embrace equal rights and not move backwards with regret. This not the time to move backwards in time and alter this principle that has guided the courts of Ohio. Senator Seitz, only a fool trips on what’s behind them.”

Patricia Kidd, Esq., Executive Director, Fair Housing Resource Center (FHRC), 440-392-0147

“Senator Seitz is at it again. SB 134 is a step backwards for Ohioans. Instead of ensuring equal opportunity, it limits current civil rights laws within the Buckeye State and turns away $1M in annual funding from the federal government to enforce the fair housing laws. It is fundamentally un-American to deny equal opportunity to families with children and persons with disabilities. Senator Seitz should be ashamed, and Ohioans embarrassed, by his continued buffoonery.”

Michael P. Marsh, MA, CFRE, President/CEO, Toledo Fair Housing Center, 419-243-6163

“SB 134 will is a bad idea from start to finish. It will rob Ohio of its substantial equivalent status and its ability to investigate and adjudicate housing discrimination claims on the state level. SB 134 simply makes Ohio’s law irrelevant in the ongoing struggle to ensure equal housing opportunity. Fair housing advocates will still challenge those who discriminate—but will take our fight into federal court, where it will cost discriminators even more in time and money to try and justify their insidious, un-American behavior.”

Jim McCarthy, President/CEO, Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, 937-223-6035

“The civil right to equal opportunities in housing in Ohio remains under attack. The majority of people in Ohio live in one, two and three family homes. They would lose fair housing protections against housing discrimination under this bill. The additional threat to Ohio’s substantial equivalency with the federal laws will jeopardize the state’s ability to protect the rights of its residents. The Housing Research & Advocacy Center stands firmly for equal opportunity in housing for all. We oppose SB 134.”

Hilary Mason King, Executive Director, Housing Research & Advocacy Center, 216-361-9240

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