This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: Avalanche of Business & Celebrity Opposition to Anti-LGBT Laws

By Adam Polaski • April 15, 2016 • 4:55 pm

It was another big week for LGBT non-discrimination, as high-profile entertainers and businesses continued to condemn anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi while warning Tennessee lawmakers that dangerous anti-transgender legislation would not be tolerated.

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With steps forward in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Massachusetts, executive orders issued in North Carolina and Mississippi, and legislative advances for anti-LGBT bills in Alabama and Missouri, there was lots happening. Here’s a roundup:

Missouri

Lawmakers held a public hearing that stretched late into the night earlier this week on SJR-39, the discriminatory bill which would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot allowing small businesses and individuals to refuse services to LGBT Missourians. Corporate leaders from across the state, representing local and national businesses, were on-hand to express their opposition to the bill and voice concern over its impact on Missouri’s economy. The hearing took place in the House Emerging Issues committee, and lawmakers could vote on it next week.

Hundreds of businesses are opposed to SJR 39, and earlier this week more than 100 companies announced their participation in Missouri Competes – a nonpartisan business coalition comprised of organizations that oppose SJR 39. Members of Missouri Competes include MasterCard, Dow Chemical, Marriott, Geotechnology, Hyatt Hotels, Monsanto, Google Fiber, Express-Scripts, Salesforce, Pfizer, Purina Nestle, the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce and the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

North Carolina

On Tuesday, after weeks of fervent national backlash to North Carolina’s House Bill 2 Governor Pat McCrory issued an executive order in response.

Executive Order 93 in some ways moves LGBT equality slightly forward by expanding North Carolina’s non-discrimination policy for state employees to cover sexual orientation and gender identity – but aside from this step forward, the executive order made no additional attempt to correct the egregious anti-LGBT policies established by House Bill 2. The majority of the order, in fact, reinforces some of the worst elements of HB2. It maintains a new anti-transgender provision established by HB2 requiring people in government buildings and schools to use the restroom of the gender on their birth certificate, ignoring their gender identity. It also underlines that businesses can establish their own nondiscrimination policies or restroom rules – which has always been the case in North Carolina.

McCrory’s insufficient action came as the economic repercussions of HB 2 continued to cripple his state – with Deutsche Bank the latest major organization announcing they wouldn’t bring new jobs and investment to the state because of the law, following Paypal the week before. Entertainers – including Bruce Springsteen, Cirque du Soleil, and Ringo Starr – have canceled performances, while others – Cyndi Lauper and Mumford & Sons included – spoke out against anti-LGBT legislation and demanded repeal.

The North Carolina General Assembly resumes its legislative session on April 25. The NCGA should take immediate action to correct the missteps of last month by repealing HB2.

Louisiana

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards also took action on Wednesday this week to protect LGBT state employees and to undo a discriminatory order put in place by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal. The executive order is historic – the first in Louisiana to protect state workers from discrimination based on gender identity, in addition to sexual orientation. The executive order applies to all state agencies and offices, as well as state commissions and boards.

Forum for Equality Louisiana Executive Director SarahJane Brady said this week, “Today is a historic moment as Governor Edwards sign an executive order protecting state employees and contractors from discrimination and harassment, no matter who they are or who they love. And in going a step forward, he repealed Gov. Jindal’s desperate and dangerous Marriage and Conscience executive order. This shows our nation that the State of Louisiana is an open, inclusive, and competitive force in today’s economy. This is putting Louisiana first.”

Tennessee

In Tennessee, lawmakers slowed a discriminatory gender inspection bill after the state’s attorney general amplified concerns the legislation could cost the state $1 billion in federal funding. On Monday, Tennessee’s Republican Attorney General Herbert Slatery published an opinion explaining that HB2414 – an invasive bill that restricts transgender children and students from using the restroom of the gender they live as each day – would certainly threaten Tennessee’s federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education. That’s because the anti-transgender legislation contradicts the federal Title IX. 

AG Slatery’s opinion doesn’t mince words. “Does House Bill 2414 pose a risk of violation of Title IX of the Education amendments of 1972?” he asks, and quickly answers, “Yes.” The legislature, however, did send to the governor a pernicious bill that allows counselors to refuse to help patients if they feel it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Haslam has not indicated whether he will sign the bill into law or not.

Mississippi

Business and public backlash is continuing in Mississippi, where Governor Phil Bryant signed the anti-LGBT bill HB1523 into law on April 5. The bill allows any business or individual to legally cite their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against same-sex couples who marry, transgender people, and anyone who has sex outside of marriage.

This week many entertainers and businesses have called for repeal of the law, which takes effect July 1. Rock singer Bryan Adams canceled a concert in Biloxi, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts denounced the law, Ellen DeGeneres delivered a moving monologue on the law last week, and actress Sela Ward  expressed disappointment that her home state passed such a shameful bill. “We are all God’s creatures,” she said.

South Carolina

On Wednesday South Carolina lawmakers held a hearing on a bill targeting transgender students and children. The bill, S. 1203, is another attempt to criminalize transgender people for being who they are by restricting their access to restrooms. It would require all people in South Carolina to use the restroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate, ignoring their gender identity.

South Carolinians came out in full force to gather outside of the South Carolina Capitol and take a stand for transgender people, calling for respect and dignity for all. And during the hearing, the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina underlined that there have been no reported incidents of a transgender person attacking someone in a restroom.

Massachusetts

On Wednesday, April 13, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker spoke at an LGBT networking event in Boston— an event that would’ve been the perfect opportunity for him to finally break his year-long silence on legislation fully protecting transgender Bay Staters from discrimination. Instead of addressing this pressing issue head-on, he merely reiterated the same point he has been saying for many months – that he would look at all sides of the issue before making a decision about the transgender public accommodations bill.

It’s time to tell Governor Baker that he needs to take a stand on LGBT non-discrimination and at last support full protections for all. Send a message telling the Governor that if he wants to truly hear from people impacted by this bill, it’s time to meet face-to-face with transgender people in Massachusetts who fear discrimination each and every day.

Alabama

On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives considered House Bill 158, which advanced out of the House Health Committee on Wednesday, April 13. If signed into law, the measure – which is sponsored by state Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa) – would allow taxpayer-funded adoption and foster agencies to use religion as an excuse to turn away capable and loving parents, including those who are LGBT.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said this week, “No child should be denied the right to live in a loving and safe home, but that’s exactly what House Bill 158 does. Under this measure, taxpayer funded adoption and foster care agencies will have the legal ability to discriminate against loving and qualified parents, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Allowing a child to have have a loving, safe and permanent family is what is best for every child. Alabama lawmakers must ensure every child has this right by stopping House Bill 158.”

Georgia

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is standing by his veto of HB 757, discriminatory legislation that proposed to allow some taxpayer-funded organizations to deny employment or services to LGBT people and others, even endangering existing local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state.

As evidence that he made the right call, Governor Deal cited the uproar in North Carolina—where HB 2 has stripped municipalities of their ability to pass local LGBT protections—and Mississippi—where HB 1523 has given businesses a broad license to discriminate: “It’s time to take another deep breath. I see what’s happening in North Carolina. I see what’s happening in Mississippi. And I would hope that many of the ones that are pushing for it would not want the state of Georgia to go through that kind of scenario.”


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