This Week in Non-Discrimination: Legislatures Across the Country Consider LGBT BillsBy Adam Polaski • January 28, 2016 • 6:23 pm
It’s been a busy week for the movement to win LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections – and defend against attempts to codify discrimination into state statute. In states across the country, legislative sessions are up and running, and dozens of bills have been introduced. Several are proactive efforts to secure comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Many others, however, are attempts to discriminate against LGBT individuals – and we’re standing alongside our coalition partners nationally and in the states to coordinate work to defeat these anti-LGBT bills.
Here’s a look at what’s going on in the state legislatures this week. Beyond the movement in these states, Freedom for All Americans is also working with local and national partners in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Arizona:
On January 27, Indiana lawmakers spoke for hours about LGBT discrimination – beginning the day with three deeply flawed bills. In the morning, a Senate committee essentially defeated one bill that had become known as a “Super RFRA,” but in a later hearing – even after hours of testimony from clergy, business leaders and everyday Hoosiers in support of comprehensive non-discrimination – the Indiana Senate Rules Committee moved Senate Bill 344 to the entire Senate, where it will receive a full vote next week.
— Freedom Indiana (@freedom_indiana) January 28, 2016
The third bill, S.B. 100, did not advance. S.B. 344 is extremely problematic because it entirely leaves out transgender Hoosiers, providing no protections from discrimination based on gender identity – and beyond that, it establishes broad religious exemptions for adult shelters, hospitals, food kitchens, and adoption agencies. Freedom for All Americans is proud to support the work of Freedom Indiana and Indiana Competes in calling for full protections for LGBT Hoosiers, and refusing to accept anything that leaves out the transgender community.
In Florida, legislators stand at a crossroads: On January 26 – the same day that lawmakers delayed action on the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a comprehensive non-discrimination bill set to be heard for the first time in nearly 10 consecutive years of inaction – some Florida lawmakers said they’d like to add provisions to a separate bill that codify discrimination against LGBT people. These legislators insist that HB 43, a so-called “Pastor Protection Act” should make it permissible for those beyond religious institutions to discriminate against or deny services to LGBT people. The good news? An unprecedented number of Republican lawmakers in Florida have supported the Competitive Workforce Act, and we’ll continue to work with our coalition of partners at Florida Competes to move forward.
Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:
“Lawmakers in Florida have a very clear choice to make in the coming days. They can unite behind a bipartisan nondiscrimination bill that enjoys enormous support across the state from businesses, people of faith, conservatives and Floridians from all walks of life; or they can make a bad bill even worse and put themselves on a path toward economic loss and public backlash, the likes of which we’ve seen in places like Indiana. There is no middle ground on this issue, and we’ve seen firsthand what happens when lawmakers disregard the will of the people and advice of the business community. Freedom for All Americans is continuing to work with our partners on the ground and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure LGBT Floridians get the protections they deserve.”
On January 28, members of the West Virginia House heard arguments on a so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” one very similar to the bill passed in Indiana last spring that drove national backlash and forced the state to take a huge economic hit to the tune of $60 million in lost revenue from up to 12 conventions that cited RFRA as a reason for not choosing Indianapolis as a host city. Dozens of community members in West Virginia spoke out against the bill – including people of faith and business leaders like Marriott. Freedom for All Americans live-tweeted the hearing this morning, alongside our friends at Fairness West Virginia.
— Freedom for All USA (@freedom4allusa) January 28, 2016
This same week, Fairness West Virginia released a compelling video featuring the voices of nearly a dozen legislators, many of them Republican, calling for comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination. Watch that video here.
Legislators in South Dakota are also considering a slew of anti-LGBT bills. On January 27, the House of Representatives passed H.B. 1008, a bill that singles out transgender students and bans them from using restrooms and facilities that correspond to their gender identity. The bill would force students that are transgender to use facilities that correspond to the opposite gender, or to submit a request to their school district for accommodations in separate facilities.
We are working with the ACLU of South Dakota and the Center for Equality to spread the word about this shameful legislation. Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, responded to the bill yesterday:
“This bill creates a hostile and toxic climate in South Dakota’s education system for children who are transgender. It singles out transgender students and attacks them for being who they are by treating them differently every time they engage in an activity as simple as using the restroom or getting ready for gym class. No student’s day at school should ever be interrupted by discrimination. With this and other harmful legislation pending, South Dakota legislators seem determined to make sure the state is an unwelcoming place for LGBT people to live and work.”
This week Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) in Georgia introduced H.B. 849, which would establish non-discrimination protections across Georgia’s public accommodations. Georgia is one of just a few states that currently do not have state-level non-discrimination protections. The bill, which has bipartisan support, does not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity; but Rep. Golick has said he wants to expand the bill to be as inclusive as possible.
— Georgia Unites (@GeorgiaUnites) January 27, 2016
Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, released a statement through Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a coalition Freedom for All Americans is proud to be a part of. He said:
“We’ve been working for several years now to build support for non-discrimination protections that extend to all Georgians, including those who are gay and transgender. Over the past year in particular, the broad support for that type of legislation has become increasingly clear – among conservatives, businesses, people of faith and many others.
On January 27 in Missouri, the Senate Committee on Progress and Development held a hearing on the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend comprehensive non-discrimination protections to LGBT individuals. Dozens of speakers are in Missouri today to testify in favor of the bill, calling for its passage in the Missouri Legislature. Check out tweets from the hearing here, from our friends at PROMO Missouri.
After defeating every anti-LGBT bill proposed during the last legislative session, activists in Oklahoma – including our friends at Freedom Oklahoma – are working on overdrive to defeat another slew of dangerous bills. This week, 26 bills – a record number of anti-LGBT bills – were filed in the legislature, with many designed to use religion as a license to discriminate.