This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: With Anti-LGBT Bills Advancing, Here’s How We’re Pushing Back

By Adam Polaski • February 13, 2016 • 12:06 pm

As legislative sessions surge on in most states, lawmakers are continuing to consider the lives of LGBT Americans – or, in some cases, weighing bills that would directly place LGBT people in harm’s way. This week, several anti-LGBT bills advanced, lawmakers refused to act on several proactive non-discrimination measures, and momentum continued to build as fair-minded Americans clearly commit more than ever before to keep fighting until the day that no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love. Freedom for All Americans is proud to work with our partners on the ground in states across the country to halt harmful bills that would allow for discrimination against LGBT Americans, and to advance comprehensive nondiscrimination measures. Below, we recap of some of this week’s biggest developments:

LegislativeWeekofFeb8

South Dakota

The South Dakota legislature is considering three anti-LGBT bills. HB 1008 – the most recent to receive support from the Senate Education Committee – would prohibit transgender students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity.  The measure would open local school districts to costly and time consuming lawsuits and administrative complaints without any financial support from the state. Civil rights advocates oppose the bill for several reasons, including the fact that every student in South Dakota would be required to provide a birth certificate or blood test results as a condition to using the restroom. HB 1008 is expected to be heard before the entire state Senate early next week.

The legislature is also considering two other anti-LGBT bills. HB 1007 would allow businesses and individuals to use religion as a reason to discriminate against LGBT people, while HB 1112 would ban any transgender-inclusive policy in South Dakota high schools.  Freedom for All Americans is working with our partners on the ground to help stop these harmful bills from becoming law.

Indiana

On Thursday morning, Gov. Mike Pence refused to say whether he believes firing someone solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong or not.  The deeply disturbing statement from the Governor comes after the state received a year of bad press and lost millions-of-dollars in business because of a religious exemption bill he signed into law. So far this year, legislators have failed to adopt important legislation that would protect LGBT Hoosiers from discrimination.  Check out the video of Pence’s comments here and below:

Pence’s comment is reminiscent to an interview conducted last year when he refused to tell ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos whether Indiana’s RFRA law allows individuals and businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Just as he did on Thursday, Pence refused to answer the simple, yes or no question. Matt McTighe, Executive Director of Freedom for All Americans, said:

“This type of quote just demonstrates why it’s so important that the Indiana legislature pass a statewide nondiscrimination bill: to show that they are a welcoming, inclusive place to do business. Freedom for All Americans will continue to work with Indiana businesses and local advocates to ensure legislation is passed to protect LGBT in Indiana from discrimination.”

 

Georgia

Georgia’s Senate Rules Committee punted twice this week on Sen. Greg Kirk’s (R-Americus) so-called First Amendment Defense Act, SB 284. Legislators on the committee are now scheduled to take up SB 284 on Tuesday. The legislation is the most sweeping of the more than half-dozen anti-LGBT introduced in the Peach State so far this year. SB 284 would allow non-profits and government contractors receiving taxpayer funding, as well as individuals and businesses, to deny services to LGBT people.

On Wednesday, evangelical Franklin Graham appeared in Georgia, blasting the Supreme Court ruling that extended the freedom to marry nationwide and called efforts to enact nondiscrimination for gay and transgender Georgians “wicked.” Graham appeared one day after civil rights and religious leaders rallied with hundreds of Georgians from across the state in opposition to the harmful anti-LGBT bills in the legislature. Freedom for All Americans is a founding member of theGeorgia Unites coalition and will continue working with our partners on the ground to defeat these harmful bills.

Florida

Florida made history this week on non-discrimination, with a Senate Committee holding the first-ever hearing on SB 120, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. This was the first time in the 10 years that some form of the bill has been introduced has received a hearing. The Competitive Workforce Act would extend comprehensive nondiscrimination protections to LGBT Floridians in employment, housing and public accommodations. Major businesses attended the hearing to show their support and speak to economic imperative of passing nondiscrimination protections. Businesses supporting SB 120 include Walt Disney World, Tech Data, Home Shopping Network, CSX, AT&T, Marriott, Wells Fargo, Carnival, Florida Realtors, the Miami Heat and Winn-Dixie.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in the Florida Senate, however, voted against advancing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, meaning that the bill will not move forward in 2016. But despite the disappointing news – we are proud that the undeniable momentum in the state, fueled by thousands of Floridians, a robust coalition of businesses, an unprecedented number of Republican lawmakers, and LGBT individuals who spoke out, accomplished what has never been done before in Florida. That’s progress – and we know that together, we’ll keep moving forward. And in 2017, alongside our national and state coalition partners at Florida Competes, we’ll pass LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections once and for all.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, the Mountain State’s House of Delegates voiced its approval of a so-called “Religious Freedom Defense Act” (HB4012). It not only codifies discrimination against LGBT people, but it would overturn any local protections already passed by residents of West Virginian cities or towns, as well as actually banning voters from ever passing such protections. Fairness West Virginia has rallied against the shameful bill, and newspapers across the state have editorialized against it.

Eliminating any doubt as to the bill’s intent, House Majority Whip John O’Neal told the Christian Broadcasting Network that the bill “doesn’t guarantee anyone’s right to have any particular kind of lifestyle or behavior protected, but it guarantees the free exercise of religion … that freedom has been severely curtailed in recent years with the growth of gay rights.”

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a bill is pending that would fully protect transgender people from discrimination in public places. The Statehouse News Service reported last week that Speaker Robert DeLeo, who announced his support for the bill in November, is discussing the bill with lawmakers to ensure that there is enough support to override a potential veto by the governor. Earlier this week, the Boston Globe editorialized in support of the bill for the second time. More than 200 businesses across the state have endorsed the bill, and last month, every professional sports team in New England announced their support. Freedom for All Americans is proud to serve as a founding and leading member of Freedom Massachusetts, the campaign to fully protect transgender Bay Staters from discrimination.

Virginia

The Virginia House of Representatives this week rejected a dangerous proposal to prevent transgender people – including students – from accessing public restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender. However, a similar bill (HB663) remains alive, while an equally dangerous so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (HB773) passed out of its first House committee on Thursday.

Washington

In Washington State, the Senate defeated legislation to repeal a law allowing transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. On a 25-24 vote, several Republican lawmakers joined in voting to reject the dangerous bill. In Washington, LGBT people have long been protected from discrimination by state statute – although several additional bills have been introduced that would chip away at those protections for transgender Washingtonians.


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