This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: Huge Victories as Republicans Reject Anti-LGBT Legislation

By Adam Polaski • March 4, 2016 • 4:31 pm

In a legislative session that’s often felt aggressively hostile to members of the LGBT community, with lawmakers meeting for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide, this week several important fights came to a head – and delivered unequivocal victories for the movement to win LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination. Momentum is clearly on our side – but we must continue pushing forward. We need to not only defeat any attempts to roll back progress for the LGBT community – but also push ahead, toward the day when no one is discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.


Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:

“Our opponents have launched an unprecedented onslaught of anti-LGBT legislation this session, but this week we saw their attempts to advance discrimination fail in a number of states. A growing number of Americans understand that freedom of religion is already protected under the First Amendment, and that nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people do absolutely nothing to threaten that. Freedom for All Americans will continue working in states across the country to stop the harmful bills that were killed this week in places like South Dakota and West Virginia, and advance comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for everyone.”

Check out key updates from state legislative non-discrimination work below:

South Dakota

On Tuesday, March 1, in an enormous victory for the values of privacy and dignity that all Americans hold dear, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, vetoed invasive legislation that would have irreparably harmed transgender children in the state. The bill, HB1008, singled out transgender students for discrimination by prohibiting them from using the restroom that matches the gender they live as everyday. If it had passed, it would have been the first law of its kind anywhere in the United States.

Two days later, the LGBT community celebrated another important win when the South Dakota House, despite attempts from oppositional lawmakers to override, voted overwhelmingly to sustain the governor’s veto.

Freedom for All Americans has been proud to work  this year with our state and national partners, including the ACLU of South Dakota, on the campaign to defeat HB1008. Through our States Action Team, we supported lobbyists on the ground in South Dakota, provided strategic communications guidance and digital content, and channeled thousands of messages to the governor urging him to veto.

Take a look at this video that Freedom for All Americans produced tracking the governor’s own journey – and the power of transgender people sharing their stories – this week:

West Virginia

On Wednesday, March 3 in West Virginia, the Republican-controlled Senate voted to reject HB4012, which would have codified discrimination by allowing any business or individual to cite their religious beliefs as an excuse for denying services to other West Virginians. The bill was strongly opposed by LGBT organizations, led by Fairness West Virginia, women’s groups, and by other religious minorities.

Freedom for All Americans applauds Fairness WV – and all of the organizations, businesses, and individuals who took a stand against discrimination – on this important win.


While the nation watched the demise of South Dakota’s very similar bill, Tennessee lawmakers were busy introducing similar legislation. The measure, which will be heard in committee next week, is another dangerous and invasive attempt to ban transgender students from using the restroom that matches the gender they live as everyday. The bill would require students in any school, college or university to show a birth certificate before they are allowed to use the restroom.


Opponents of a Washington State Human Rights Commission rule ensuring transgender people are protected from discrimination are continuing to promise a ballot fight over the matter, and this week they filed their initiative paperwork. The opposition must collect around 250,000 signatures from registered voters by July 8thto qualify for the ballot this November. These are the same opponents who, several weeks ago, actually actively encouraged men to break state law in protest by entering and disrobing in women’s locker rooms.


Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal spoke out forcefully yesterday against HB 757, the “License to Discriminate” legislation which would allow individuals, faith-based organizations receiving taxpayer dollars, and other businesses to deny services to same-sex couples. Deal, who is a Southern Baptist, cited his own religion in opposing the bill’s current form: “We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”

Deal said the bill was not on his agenda for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends March 24. His remarks come as a growing number of conservatives – include a former top Santorum staffer in the state, as well as a former official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – speak out against the License to Discriminate.


This week in response to two new federal legal cases filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging anti-gay discrimination, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf reiterated his statewide call for updating Pennsylvania laws to protect from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He said, “The allegations of discrimination in the federal complaint are disturbing, yet legal under current Pennsylvania law. These allegations illustrate the urgent need for non-discrimination protection legislation. For far too long, Pennsylvania has failed to protect all of our citizens from acts of discrimination in employment and housing.”

Earlier this week, a bipartisan coalition of nearly two dozen mayors across Pennsylvania came together with Pennsylvania Competes to form Mayors for a Competitive Pennsylvania. The coalition of Republican and Democratic mayors seeks to push forward with the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. Freedom for All Americans is a leading member of Pennsylvania Competes, the campaign to win LGBT non-discrimination in the Keystone State.


With Republicans taking action to reject anti-LGBT legislation in states across the country, activists, businesses and everyday Bay Staters urged Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to take a clear stance on a bill that would secure fully inclusive non-discrimination protections for transgender people in Massachusetts. Freedom for All Americans has been leading and working with our state and national partners on the campaign to win public accommodations protections in MA through Freedom Massachusetts.


Big news out of the courts in Arkansas – a judge has ruled that an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance passed last year in Fayetteville does not conflict with state law. Last year, the Arkansas Legislature passed a terrible bill restricting municipalities from passing their own local non-discrimination protections to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This ruling fuels momentum against that bad law. The next step could now be the state supreme court.

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