This Week in LGBTQ Non-Discrimination: Campaigns Launched and Bills Introduced

By Shane Stahl • January 19, 2018 • 5:37 pm

Legislative news regarding LGBTQ non-discrimination dominated the week, with support growing for comprehensive non-discrimination legislation in Ohio, and campaigns to pass such legislation announcing their official launches in Florida and New Hampshire. Newly elected Virginia Governor Ralph Northam moved to protect all LGBTQ people in state government, and anti-transgender bills were introduced in both Oklahoma and Tennessee.

To help organize all the legislative happenings across the country, Freedom For All Americans has developed and activated our new Legislative Tracker. Visit this research tool here, and be the first to know the latest news regarding non-discrimination legislation.

Florida

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers gathered at the Florida Capitol on January 18 to stand in support of HB 347 / SB 66, known as the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), which would modernize the 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act to include nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Nearly 40% of the legislature stands in support of the bill, including 56% of the freshman class of lawmakers.

Florida Competes, the business coalition working to pass the FCWA, joined lawmakers at the press conference. The coalition believes that the FCWA will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefited from adopting anti-discrimination policies.

“This is a good bill for a just cause,” stated Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “When even one person is discriminated against because they are LGBT, Florida’s strong economic standing and welcoming tourist environment is weakened.”

In addition to over 450 small businesses, members of the business coalition include 10 major Florida-based Fortune 500 companies, among them Walt Disney World & Resort, Darden Restaurants, and AT&T.

New Hampshire

On January 17, Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to add protections for transgender people to state law, convened with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and community leaders to officially announce the campaign’s launch in support of HB 1319. The bill would update the state’s current non-discrimination laws to include transgender people. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for January 31 at 1:00

Freedom New Hampshire is a coalition of businesses large and small, law enforcement, anti-violence advocates, faith leaders, and transgender residents and their families working to introduce Granite Staters to their transgender neighbors and to make the case for equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination.

“We’ve always valued freedom and opportunity here in New Hampshire,” said the bill’s lead sponsor Representative Ed Butler. HB 1319 isn’t about creating new or special protections for anyone – it’s simply about updating our state’s laws so that our transgender friends and loved ones have the same protections as everyone else.”

Ohio

For the first time in eight years, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce officially endorsed a comprehensive non-discrimination bill submitted by Rep. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood, OH. This significant endorsement is in addition to the support of Ohio Business Competes, a coalition of over 300 businesses both large and small. Ohio is currently one of 28 states that do not offer statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

HB 160, known as The Ohio Fairness Act, is currently scheduled for a hearing in committee on January 31. Ohio Governor John Kasich has gone on record saying he would support and sign a non-discrimination bill.  

Oklahoma

Notoriously anti-LGBTQ Representative Chuck Strohm introduced HB 2680, known as the Bathroom Guidelines Act. Although there is no official language in the bill yet, according to Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma, Troy Stevenson, “…with the title and Strohm being the author, we are pretty sure we know what’s coming.”

In 2017, Strohm and other legislators introduced 8 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation. The far-reaching discriminatory bills in Oklahoma included a proposal restricting transgender people from using school facilities consistent with their gender identity, and proposals aimed at authorizing individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to refuse goods or services to LGBTQ people under the guise of religion.

Tennessee

Representative Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga introduced HB 1488, legislation that reopened the anti-transgender bathroom debate in the state. The bill would have directed the Tennessee Attorney General to defend school districts engaging in anti-transgender behavior, including denying access to restrooms that correspond to a student’s gender identity

After tremendous pressure, including from the business community, our partners at he Tennessee Equality Project, and more, Rep. McCormick pulled the bill from consideration.

Opponents of this legislation, including fellow legislators and LGBTQ advocates, have made clear that this legislation is not in the best interests of the state. We at Freedom For All Americans are grateful to all those who work to make their voices heard in the movement for non-discrimination, and glad to see fringe lawmakers taking these proposals off the table.

Virginia

Hours after being sworn into office on January 13, Governor Ralph Northam signed a series of executive orders, including one regarding LGBTQ non-discrimination.

Executive Order 1 expands upon an order signed previously by former Governor Terry McAuliffe, which protected state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Northam’s order adds the category of gender expression and extends those protections to state contractors as well.

In addition to the executive order, Delegate Mark Levine introduced HB 401, which would enact comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Previous versions of the bill failed to receive a vote on the floor, but with a shakeup in General Assembly membership in the 2017 election, Levine has hope that the bill will make it out of committee.


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