SB 349

A bill recently introduced in the Ohio Senate would turn back the clock on civil rights and fair housing laws in Ohio. We’re hoping we can count on you to stand with us in opposition to SB 349 (Seitz, R-Cincinnati), introduced, ironically, during the 50th year anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

While fair housing may not be your primary focus, we’re reaching out because it’s in all of our best interest to oppose legislation that would discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, military status and/or familial status. SB 349 would do just that.

The bill would reduce the consequences of discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that guilty landlords would have to pay. It would discourage victims from filing a complaint to protect their rights by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case.

And SB 349 would seriously discourage investigation and enforcement of housing discrimination by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). The bill sets up conflict between state and federal fair housing law, thereby stripping Ohio of about $1 million in HUD funding to OCRC because Ohio law would no longer be “substantially equivalent” to federal law.

In a letter to Sen. Seitz, the OCRC sketched a dark image of housing reality under SB 349: “Touted as a bill to amend damages and fees,” OCRC wrote, “this legislation, if passed, would legally immunize small landlords, allowing them to tell potential renters or buyers, I am not going to [sell] or [rent] my home to you because you are:

Black…female…Hispanic…blind…Jewish…a soldier…pregnant. We are certain this was not the drafters’ intent, but it will undoubtedly be the impact.”

Though SB 349 has not yet been assigned to committee, its intent cuts to the core of hard won civil rights and fair housing protections in our state and country. It’s important that we get out in front of it early and vocally. I’ve attached a fact sheet on SB 349 as well as the letter to Sen. Seitz from the OCRC.

We appreciate you signing and returning the attached Pledge form as soon as possible.

Thanks for your support, Bill Faith, Executive Director COHHIO