This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: National Outrage in North Carolina as Advocates Claim Victories in Two States

By Adam Polaski • April 4, 2016 • 2:03 pm

Last week the movement to win LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination took two big jumps forward when governors in two states rejected bills that would have enforced broad discrimination against LGBT people. At the same time, North Carolina continued to make national news and spur an ongoing avalanche of opposition from businesses and community leaders who know that codified discrimination has no place in North Carolina – or anywhere in the United States. Check out the rest of how we moved forward to made gains last week:

LegislativeWeekofMarch29

Georgia

The week started off with a victory in Georgia nearly three years in the making: Governor Deal vetoed HB 757, rejecting the discriminatory legislation which proposed to allow some taxpayer-funded organizations to deny employment or services to LGBT people and others; and even imperiled existing local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state. Governor Deal’s veto came after an unprecedented national backlash against the bill, which drew condemnation from businesses, athletic organizations, the entertainment industry, people of faith, conservatives, legal experts and others.

Despite the historic defeat of HB 757, the work continues: LGBT people have no state-level nondiscrimination protections in Georgia. Freedom for All Americans executive director Matt McTighe noted earlier this week: “It’s now time for us to turn our attention to how we can protect all Georgians from discrimination – including those who are LGBT. A strong majority of Georgians favor expanding comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, and that critical work now continues with renewed determination.”

Mississippi

This week, the Mississippi state Senate voted to pass one of the most onerous anti-LGBT pieces of legislation this year. If signed into law, HB 1523 would allow public employees to opt out of issuing marriage licenses or performing weddings for same-sex couples if they have a “sincerely held religious belief.” The measure also allows businesses and individuals to deny housing, employment and public services to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as single mothers and unmarried couples.

The measure has one more procedural vote in the state House on Monday before landing on Republican Governor Phil Bryant’s desk.  Bryant has said that he will likely sign the bill into law, despite strong public opposition.

North Carolina

National backlash began immediately after Governor Pat McCrory signed HB 2 into law on Wednesday, March 23. The discriminatory new law, which is particularly dangerous for transgender North Carolinians, overrides local nondiscrimination ordinances designed to protect LGBT people and bans transgender people from using the bathroom that matches the gender they live as every day.

Despite the onslaught of national attention and economic backlash, Gov. McCrory doesn’t seem concerned. When asked earlier this week about some of the new law’s consequences on his state, he replied that he was being “blindsided” by the question and didn’t know the answer because he had been traveling all day. A spokesman for the governor later attempted to clarify, but admitted he was “still not sure” about how the discriminatory new law impacts local measures already on the books.

Nonetheless, businesses big and small have spoken out in opposition, including Facebook, Salesforce, American Airlines, Airbnb, Microsoft, Apple, Red Hat, Twitter, PayPal, Lyft, Bank of America, Pfizer, Dow Chemical, YouTube, Biogen, Yahoo, IBM and Google. The law is stirring other consequences as well – Rob Reiner has said he won’t produce any more films in North Carolina; while the NBA, which is scheduled to host its 2017 All Star Game in Charlotte, also immediately spoke out.

Missouri

Lawmakers are back from spring recess in Missouri and wasted absolutely no time in referring SJR 39 to the Emerging Issues committee in the House. The discriminatory bill passed the Senate last month after a historic filibuster, and would send to the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment allowing individuals and small business owners to refuse services to LGBT people.

The Kansas City Sports Commission released a letter this week warning that the legislation could cause the city to lose out in at least $50 million in revenue from sporting events. The St. Louis Regional Chamber, Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Dow Chemical, Monsanto and MasterCard are among the organizations voicing opposition to the legislation. Governor Jay Nixon also is opposed to the bill – though he cannot issue a veto since the legislation involves a proposed constitutional amendment.

Virginia

On the heels of Governor Deal’s historic veto in Georgia, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe this week vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses and individuals to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse services to LGBT people.

Like Governor Deal, McAuliffe cited the economic implications of anti-LGBT bills in his veto: “Businesses and job creators do not want to locate or do business in states that appear more concerned with demonizing people than with creating a strong business climate. … We need only look at the damage these types of laws are doing in other states to understand the harm this bill could bring to our Commonwealth and its economy.”

Tennessee

The Tennessee House Education Committee and the Senate Finance Committees are scheduled to take up two dangerous “Gender Inspection” bills after lawmakers return from their Easter recess.

Both Gender Inspection bills will require students prove that their anatomy matches that of their birth certificate prior to entering a school 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.

Recently, Governor Bill Haslam’s press secretary said the Republican governor is concerned that the state could lose federal funding if the discriminatory legislation passes.  According to the Tennessee Department of Education, the measure could cost schools $1 billion in federal funding, as well as legal and administrative fees.


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