This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: NH Momentum as Trump Abandons Transgender Students

By Adam Polaski • February 24, 2017 • 5:21 pm

In one of the busiest weeks for the LGBT movement in months, equality for transgender Americans was discussed by millions. Most of the conversation stemmed from the Trump Administration’s decision Wednesday evening to withdraw 2016 guidance instructing schools how to provide safe, inclusive spaces for transgender students. Elected officials in the state and local level spoke out against this decision, which doesn’t eliminate any protections for transgender students but simply sends a terrible, stigmatizing message.

At the state level, significant conversation also centered on legislation. Most pressingly, in New Hampshire a hearing on affirmative protections for transgender people led to an overwhelming bipartisan committee vote in favor of the bill, and in Missouri, Alabama and Oklahoma, anti-LGBT legislation was considered.

Each weekend of this year’s legislative session for the next few months, Freedom for All Americans will be recapping what happened in states across the country with regard to LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination. Here’s our second 2017 entry – a look at the landscape for LGBT non-discrimination in these five states:

New Hampshire 

On Wednesday, a New Hampshire House committee voted 15-2 in favor of legislation that would update the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces to explicitly include the state’s transgender residents.

The bipartisan vote was called just one day after a broad coalition of Granite Staters testified in favor of House Bill 478, including Republicans and Democrats, public safety officials, health care professionals, business leaders, members of the clergy, transgender individuals and allies.

Kasey Suffredini of Freedom for All Americans said: “We are thrilled with the overwhelming, bipartisan support House Bill 478 has earned. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not extend explicit nondiscrimination protections to transgender individuals. Discrimination goes against the very values of freedom and individual liberty that the Granite State is known for, and today’s vote reflects that those values remain vibrantly held.”

Georgia

A Georgia state senator introduced a religious exemptions bill this week, and Governor Nathan Deal’s office was quick to reject the measure. Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) introduced SB 233, a short religious exemptions bill that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While the legislation does absolutely nothing to advance religious freedom – which is already protected in the First Amendment and in federal law – the proposal does echo the early stages of HB 757, the ‘License to Discriminate’ legislation last year that Deal vetoed.

The governor’s office told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Harbin’s proposal was a non-starter: “Everything that needs to be said on this issue was said in the veto statement last March.”

“Georgia has moved beyond considering discriminatory bills that harm LGBT people and threaten their state’s economy,” said Matt McTighe, Freedom for All Americans’ executive director. “The veto of HB 757 commanded attention across the state and the nation last year, and it became clear to many Georgians that bills like this are thinly veiled attempts to allow for discrimination against LGBT people. They increasingly see through these types of legislative maneuvers that are aimed at undermining the dignity and equality of their neighbors.”

Oklahoma

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB197, a discriminatory bill that gives individuals and businesses a “license to discriminate” against LGBTQ Oklahomans. Last year, lawmakers rejected similarly shameful legislation after thousands spoke out, warning it would wreck Oklahoma’s state’s economy, just like similar bills in North Carolina and Indiana.

Last year, Freedom Oklahoma, the statewide organization working toward LGBT equality in the Sooner State, achieved the seemingly impossible by defeating  more than 25 anti-LGBT bills in Oklahoma. “We did it by refusing to back down, by remaining vigilant and by ensuring that our lawmakers had no doubt that the people of Oklahoma overwhelmingly oppose discriminatory legislation,” Troy Stevenson wrote in a message to supporters.

The bill now goes to the full Senate.

Missouri

In Missouri, a committee hearing before the Missouri Senate Education Committee was held on SB98, a bill targeting transgender students in school, seeking to restrict restroom access for these students.  LGBT activists, led by PROMO Missouri, flooded the hearing and are now working to resist the cruel anti-LGBT legislation.

North Carolina

A group of bipartisan lawmakers in North Carolina introduced House Bill 186 this week as a proposed fix to the disastrous HB 2 law, which continues to cost the Tar Heel State hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic investment. According to the News & Observer, HB 186 would repeal HB 2 – but also would continue banning local municipalities from setting their own nondiscrimination policies as they relate to public restrooms. The new proposal also calls for a 90-day moratorium on local nondiscrimination measures taking effect after they’re passed, and calls for enacting statewide nondiscrimination protections that do not extend to LGBT people.

“This is an unacceptable proposal for repealing HB 2 and repairing North Carolina’s badly damaged economy,” said Freedom for All Americans’ executive director Matt McTighe. “Rather than a clean repeal of what it is a notoriously disastrous law, HB 186 continues to perpetuate anti-transgender discrimination, throws up unnecessary obstacles to local municipalities looking to protect their residents, and refuses to acknowledge that LGBT people are among those most urgently in need of nondiscrimination protections. We certainly encourage serious discussions about how HB 2 can be repealed immediately – but this bill does not reflect serious or realistic proposals.”

Texas

A group of more than 30 global investors representing $11 trillion in assets on Tuesday announced their opposition to SB 6, the discriminatory legislation in Texas that mirrors North Carolina’s HB 2 law and bans transgender people from restrooms in government facilities, public schools and public universities. The group is led by Trillium Asset Management and the New York City Comptroller’s Office. Major signers include AllianceBernstein, Breckenridge Capitol Advisors, BlackRock, John Hancock Investments, Cornerstone Capital Group, NorthStar Asset Management, State Street Global Advisors and T. Rowe Price Associates. Last fall, a similar group of investors – representing more than $2 trillion in assets – spoke out against North Carolina’s HB 2 law. That law has cost the state nearly a billion dollars in lost economic investment to date.

In the letter released publicly, the global investors noted: “As investors in companies that employ hundreds of thousands of people across your state, we (as well as our respective beneficiaries and investors) want Texas to continue to thrive as a successful business environment and to be a financial leader in our country. However, discriminatory legislation that undermines these opportunities may hinder public and private investment, as well as the ability to raise capital, throughout your state.”

Alabama

In Alabama, a bill restricting fair access to adoption for LGBT people advanced through committee, SB 145, the so-called “Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act.” This bill purports to protect religious freedom – but in reality, it is designed to allow child placement services and adoption agencies to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT parents and children.

The passage came a few days after Equality Alabama and the Human Rights Campaign held a Lobby Day in Birmingham concerning LGBT legislation, where dozens of activists spoke out against anti-LGBT legislation.

Massachusetts

Following the announcement on Wednesday that the Trump administration has rescinded federal guidance concerning nondiscrimination protections for transgender students under Title IX, Republican Governor Charlie Baker in Massachusetts expressed support for existing nondiscrimination laws for transgender people in education and in public places generally in Massachusetts.

He said: “I’m disappointed with the decision that the administration made to roll that back. Thankfully, here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we’ve had in place standing administrative guidance on this issue for school districts in Massachusetts for the better part of four or five years  and we signed, as you know, legislation last year protecting transgender individuals. I have three kids — they’re all in their 20s now, but they used to be little kids and teenagers, and that’s an incredibly difficult and challenging time, and I think we should all be proud of the fact that in Massachusetts we are doing the best we can to make sure that kids feel comfortable and feel safe in school and in our communities … I don’t support the message [of the administration] and I don’t believe it’s the right message. But I do believe that here in the Commonwealth of Mass, and this is an important message for us to share with our colleagues and education of colleagues and communities: that here in Massachusetts, kids are going to be protected and kids are going to be able to feel safe and secure in the communities they live in and the schools they go to.”

The federal guidance was modeled after similar guidance issued in Massachusetts pursuant to the Commonwealth’s education nondiscrimination laws. Massachusetts’ guidance protecting transgender students in schools remains in effect, but the 2016 law ensuring nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public places will appear on a ballot measure in 2018. Governor Baker has said he opposes repeal of the public accommodations law.

Washington

Leaders in Washington expressed strong opposition to the Trump administration rescinding guidelines for public schools on best practices for protecting transgender students.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said: “While the Trump Administration has taken a disappointing step backward, the civil rights of transgender individuals will continue to be protected under Washington state law.”

And Governor Jay Inslee added: “I strongly oppose the Trump administration’s reversal of federal protection for transgender students. Washington state will continue to be a place where all children can feel safe from discrimination, harassment or assault based on their gender identity. Our state’s law, the Anderson-Murray Act, passed in 2006, will remain in place and is unchanged by the new federal guidance.”

Washington Won’t Discriminate, the campaign to retain transgender public accommodations protections and fight more broadly against efforts to discriminate against LGBT people in Washington, is holding a public rally in Tacoma on Saturday.

New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo also stood against the Trump administration’s terrible message this week by issuing his own statement in support of transgender New Yorkers. He said: “The misguided action taken by the federal government last night runs contrary to the New York Promise of individual freedoms. With the stroke of a pen, they seek to move this country backwards. Today, I am urging the State Education Department to issue a directive to all school districts making it clear that – regardless of Washington’s action – the rights and protections that had been extended to all students in New York remain unchanged under state law.


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