This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: All Eyes on Georgia with Anti-LGBT Bill 1 Signature from Law

By Adam Polaski • March 19, 2016 • 9:46 am

This week anti-LGBT legislation advanced in states across the country – but nowhere is a bill more extreme or closer to becoming law than in Georgia, where HB 757, a very broad religious exemption bill cobbled together from several anti-LGBT bills, was shoved through the legislature unexpectedly on Wednesday.

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The nation is laser-focused now on stopping this bill – as well as a proposed constitutional amendment in Missouri. Both bills have prompted an outcry reminiscent of the organized opposition to Indiana’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in 2015. Major sports teams have called for the bills to be blocked, hundreds of businesses have forcefully spoken out, and huge, high-revenue prestige events like the NCAA tournament and the SuperBowl have expressed warnings that inclusive non-discrimination policies play a role in determining host cities.

Momentum is building against anti-LGBT bills, but we need to push back harder than ever. Take a look at where anti-LGBT legislation advanced this week:

Georgia

Lawmakers in Georgia this week took HB 757 and made the discriminatory bill even worse. Now, any faith-based organization that receives taxpayer funding is free to deny services or employment to anyone if they claim it conflicts with their faith. That means a homeless shelter could refuse to admit LGBT youth off the street, a soup kitchen could turn away a single mother and her children, or a suicide hotline operator could deny help to someone in need of emergency counseling. The amended version of the legislation also includes a new religious exemptions component which could potentially undermine state and local laws – including existing nondiscrimination protections already on the books.

Now, just one person is the last line of defense before the bill becomes law: Governor Nathan Deal, who previously voiced his opposition to the bill, reiterating the importance of religious freedom while pushing back on the need to create harmful religious exemptions that would lead to discrimination.

Late on Friday, the NFL issued a statement in response to questions about the impact HB757 would have on the league: “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

Shortly after, all three Atlanta major sports teams issued statements condemning HB 757. Read their statements here.

Other companies and organizations are also quickly speaking out against the legislation, including the Georgia Prospers coalition, which represents nearly 500 businesses from across the state; the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Salesforce and Dow Chemical.

You can take action right now by urging Governor Nathan Deal to veto HB757. And make sure you’re connected with Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, the coalition that Freedom for All Americans is proud to lead alongside our state and national partners.

Missouri

A growing number of businesses and athletic organizations continue to express alarm over SJR 39, the discriminatory bill which would send a constitutional amendment to the ballot allowing individuals and organizations to discriminate against LGBT people. The bill passed the Senate last week after a historic filibuster, and now sits in the House. If it is passed through the House, the amendment would go directly before voters.

The NCAA released a statement this morning condemning the legislation – which is particularly significant because Kansas City is slated to hold the NCAA’s basketball semifinals and finals next March. The NCAA noted: “Our commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has not changed and is at the core of our NCAA values. It is our expectation that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect in cities that host our NCAA championships and events.”

But it’s not just the NCAA speaking out – companies and organizations standing in opposition to the bill include the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the largest business association in the state (the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry) the St. Louis Regional Chamber, MasterCard, Dow Chemical and Monsanto. In fact, more than 100 businesses joined Governor Jay Nixon at a press conference on Friday opposing the legislation.

Kentucky

On Tuesday, the Kentucky Senate advanced SB 180 – a harmful religious exemptions bill which allows for discrimination against LGBT people and undermines existing non-discrimination protections already on the books all across Kentucky, potentially voiding them.

As in other states, response from businesses and organizations opposed to the legislation has been swift: The president of the Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau has said the bill would cause economic harm to the state’s tourism industry, as well. The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled House.

Kansas

Kansas legislators this week introduced a Gender Inspection bill, HB 2737/SB 513, which would require K-12 and college students to use the restroom that matches their anatomy at birth, ignoring the needs of transgender students. The legislation is so egregiously awful that it allows students to file a lawsuit for $2,500 each time they see a transgender person using the restroom.

The bill was introduced in committee chaired by a vehemently anti-LGBT legislator; however, with the end of their legislative calendar nearing, advocates aim to stop this bill from advancing.

Tennessee

On Tuesday, the Tennessee House Education, Administration & Planning Subcommittee voted to advance HB 2414 on a voice vote. A similar measure, SB 2387, has also been introduced in the Senate.

Both measures are invasive “Gender Check Bills” that will require students prove that their anatomy matches that of their birth certificate as a condition of using the restroom. As with similar measures seen around the country, HB 2414 and SB 2387 do not describe how school officials are to determine if a student’s gender matches the sex on their original birth certificate. This means schools could be required to collect DNA or perform physical examinations before a student is allowed to use the restroom.

These bills are not only invasive, but they defy federal laws, threatening $682.5 million in federal funding for Tennessee’s public schools and universities. Schools across the state can also expect to divert millions of dollars from the classroom to fund expensive lawsuits. Last Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam’s press secretary said this fact concerned the Republican governor, stating: “The governor does have financial concerns over the loss of Title IX funding.”

House Bill 2414 is scheduled to be heard before the full Education, Administration & Planning Committee on Tuesday, March 22. Senate Bill 2387 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee the following day.

Virginia

Virginia legislators took a disappointing step backward this month with the passage of SB41, a dangerous bill similar to the outrageous “First Amendment Defense Act” in Georgia and nationally, which codifies discrimination against LGBT people. The blatantly unconstitutional language grants special rights exclusively to some (but not all) people of faith – just those who hold a certain view of the definition of marriage. Governor McAuliffe has promised to veto the bill, and we’re urging him to do so quickly.

Massachusetts

Many high-profile politicians, celebrities, and athletes have joined the call for the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a bill that would extend full non-discrimination protections to transgender people and finally bring MA’s law in line with seventeen other states with full protections. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has taken to Twitter this week to amplify the voices of so many figures calling for the passage of #TransBillMA, which would simply ensure that transgender people were protected from discrimination in public spaces – restaurants, public transportation, hotels, and businesses. Here’s one video from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.

See all of the videos here.


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