Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Wednesday that prohibits discrimination of state employees or job applicants based on gender identity and expression.
The order, which comes as Kasich is preparing to leave office, is a marked change from his previous stance on the issue.
In 2011, shortly after the governor took office, he removed "gender identity and expression" from the state's policy for government employees. It had been added more than a decade ago by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
A spokesperson for Kasich told Cleveland.com that Kasich had removed gender identity from the policy because it was what he felt was "most appropriate" at the time.
Months of lobbying by advocacy groups, such as Equality Ohio and TransOhio, may have led to Kasich's change of heart, but his spokesman Jon Keeling declined to explain the reason for the governor's policy shift.
"Upon a recent review of the policy, the governor felt it should better include groups vulnerable to potential discrimination," Keeling said in a statement to Cleveland.com.
Equality Ohio's communications director Grant Stancliff told the news outlet that the change would have a positive impact on transgender employees.
"For transgender people who work for the state, especially around the holidays, I think it's going to provide a lot of comfort," Stancliff told the news outlet.
Will the order stay in place after Kasich leaves office?
It's unclear whether or not GOP Gov.-elect Mike DeWine, who takes office next month, plans to continue the order.
Spokesman Josh Eck said DeWine hasn't completed his review of Kasich's executive order and has not yet made any decisions.
Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, military status, age, disability, among others are also prohibited. However, the anti-discrimination policy for state employees is not an actual law.