So Far, 2018 Has Been Marked by Huge Victories for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination

By Shane Stahl • April 6, 2018 • 11:05 pm

With a victory this week in Anchorage, Alaska, where a dangerous ballot initiative that sought to remove nondiscrimination protections for transgender people was defeated, LGBTQ victories in 2018 have led to stunning, significant advances for LGBTQ people.

Legislative and judicial victories have continued to build momentum for LGBTQ equality nationwide, even in the face of a presidential administration that has sought to roll back advancements. With 8 months left in the year, here is a sampling of LGBTQ victories in 2018.

New Hampshire House Advances Historic Nondiscrimination Bill

On May 2, the New Hampshire Senate passed HB 1319, legislation that would add nondiscrimination protections for transgender people to the Granite State’s existing civil rights law, by a vote of 14-10. That came shortly after the March vote in the House, where the legislation passed by an overwhelming vote of 195-129.  Both chambers are controlled by Republicans. 

Almost immediately Gov. Chris Sununu confirmed that he would sign the legislation, making New Hampshire the 19th state in the country with an explicit, comprehensive statewide law protecting transgender people from discrimination protections.

Cheers to our friends at Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections into Granite State law. Freedom for All Americans is a leading and founding member of Freedom NH.

Anchorage Makes History: First Municipality to Defend Transgender Rights at the Ballot

This week the city of Anchorage, AK made a definitive stand for equality when people voted to defeat a dangerous, discriminatory ballot initiative known as Proposition 1, which would have repealed existing municipal nondiscrimination protections in place since 2015 that apply to transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodations. It’s the first time a municipality has ever voted in favor of dignity and equality for transgender people in the United States.

The Fair Anchorage campaign worked tirelessly since mid-2017 to mobilize volunteers, build resources, and speak to voters about the need to protect transgender people. In the process, many transgender Alaskans themselves opened up about their own experiences, and were featured as voices of the campaign. Freedom For All Americans was a leading member of Fair Anchorage, and through in-kind donations of a campaign website, digital assets and staff time, Freedom for All Americans was the top contributor to the campaign to defeat Proposition 1.

This was the first ever vote-by-mail election in the history of Anchorage, with ballots distributed in mid-March and due by April 3. This led to several days of continual vote counting and results being updated, but from the start, the No votes on Prop 1 comfortably outpaced that of the opposition, with over 50% of the total vote. Finally, on Friday evening, April 6, the election was called, with the No on Prop 1 votes on top. Anchorage makes history as the first city ever to defend transgender nondiscrimination protections at the ballot box. A similar campaign, though statewide instead of citywide, will occur this November in Massachusetts, where opponents are attempting to repeal the Bay State’s own nondiscrimination protections.

Our congratulations to all involved at Fair Anchorage for their efforts.


Anti-LGBTQ Legislation Defeated for Fifth Consecutive Year in Georgia

For the fifth year in a row, thousands of individual Georgians have defeated legislative attempts to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into Georgia law. Cheers to our partners at Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a campaign Freedom for All Americans is proud to be a leading member of, on the win.

The session started with an early victory: Lawmakers speedily passed a long-awaited overhaul of Georgia’s adoption and foster care system. HB 159 was unfinished business from the last legislative session. The bill was heading for passage when extremist lawmakers tainted it by adding an anti-LGBTQ amendment, thereby ensuring it wouldn’t advance in 2017.

But soon, anti-LGBT lawmakers rolled the anti-LGBT amendment that had been attached to HB 159 into a stand-alone bill, SB 375. That bill would have given taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies a “License to Discriminate” against LGBTQ youth and same-sex couples.

In the end, although the Senate advanced SB 375, it never gained traction in the House and had not received any additional attention as of Sine Die on March 30th. Extremist lawmakers tried several last-ditch attempts to attach discriminatory language to the hundreds of bills that the legislature considered from March 27 to 30, but all attempts were unsuccessful.

Tennessee Sees No Movement on Anti-LGBTQ Bills Three Years Running

With the failure of a discriminatory bill regarding transgender restroom access on April 4, the Tennessee state legislature marks three consecutive years where anti-LGBTQ bills have been defeated before moving to the governor’s desk for approval.

Sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt and Sen. Joey Hensley, the bill would have proved to be an onerous, expensive burden for Tennessee taxpayers and officials. In districts where students file claims or lawsuits regarding anti-transgender discrimination, the bill would have provided two options: the state’s attorney general would defend the district, or public dollars would be used to pay private attorneys for the district to litigate the issues.

The measure failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. LGBTQ advocates had said the bill could have permitted districts to pass exclusionary bathroom policies, knowing the state would come to their defense in the face of a lawsuit. Previous anti-transgender bills were filed in 2016 and 2017, but died in the legislature. The victory is a testament to great organizing work from our partners at the Tennessee Equality Project.

Second Circuit Court Grants Win in LGBTQ Employment Discrimination Case

On February 26, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a big win for the LGBTQ community in a decisive en banc decision. The judges officially recognized that discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutes “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, centered on plaintiff Don Zarda, a skydiving instructor who was fired for being gay. Don was fired from his job after disclosing to a female customer that he is gay in an effort to appease her potential discomfort over close contact during a tandem skydive. When the customer’s boyfriend complained to his employer, Altitude Express Inc. in Long Island, NY, the company subsequently fired Zarda

Sadly, Don passed away several years ago, but his lawsuit was carried on by his estate, managed by sister Melissa Zarda and former partner Bill Moore. Melissa’s goals for the case were clear. “I want the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gay people. That law was meant to prevent discrimination – period. I couldn’t even believe it that LGBT people were not protected at the federal level – I was blown away. I just assumed that our country already afforded these basic protections to people.” Freedom for All Americans was proud to support communications, storytelling, and organizing around the case, which was filed by Gregory Antollino.

Just last week the victory had immediately positive results: A federal judge ruled that a worker in Ithaca, NY who faced discrimination based on sexual orientation, could continue a lawsuit with claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, citing Zarda.

Sixth Circuit Court Rules Against Anti-Transgender Discrimination, Finds that Religion Doesn’t Exempt Employers from Title VII

March 7 marked a big win against discrimination based on gender identity or expression – and a refutation of anti-LGBTQ opponents’ attempts to use religion as a license to discrimination. A 3-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit voted to reverse a terrible lower court ruling, remanding the case. The case is EEOC and Aimee Stephens v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes.

The case centered on Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman fired just because she transitioned from male to female. The panel ruled that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) does not grant employers an exemption from Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on sex.

After losing a motion to dismiss, defendants in the case argued that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the funeral home’s decision to fire Aimee, despite the fact that the business is not affiliated with any religious entity. In an unprecedented and shameful ruling in August 2016, a federal judge agreed with the defendants.However, the Sixth Circuit decision voided that ruling.

Freedom For All Americans is encouraged by this recent spate of LGBTQ victories in 2018, and we look forward to more victories this year. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with the latest news in nondiscrimination nationwide!

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