Virginia and Georgia Lawmakers Advance Bills Allowing for Broad Discrimination Against LGBT PeopleBy Adam Polaski • February 17, 2016 • 9:06 am
Yesterday, February 16, in three different states, lawmakers advanced legislation specifically designed to allow for broad discrimination against LGBT Americans. In South Dakota, the Senate advanced a bill to punish transgender children for being who they are to the governor’s desk – and in Virginia and Georgia, legislators approved bills that allow individuals, businesses and even taxpayer-funded entities to specifically discriminate against LGBT Americans and their families. Freedom for All Americans calls on elected officials in both states to reject these discriminatory bills that single out LGBT people and others for harm.
Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe commented yesterday on the similar bills that advanced in Georgia and Virginia (read about the first-of-its-kind South Dakota bill here). McTighe said:
“Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value, and no one is trying to change that. The bills in Virginia and Georgia are narrowly written and single out specific people for harm – gay and transgender people, single mothers, religious minorities and others. The further lawmakers allow these bills to advance, the more damage they do to the brands of their respective states. We’ve heard from business leaders time and again, hostile bills like this are bad for business. Lawmakers should strive to pass bills that strengthen their states and lift up their residents, not single out people for discrimination.”
Here’s a breakdown of the bills:
- In Virginia, the House passed HB 773, which is misleadingly titled the “Government Nondiscrimination Act,” and it would allow individuals, businesses, organizations and entities to discriminate against or deny services to LGBT Virginians and their families. Disturbingly, even taxpayer-funded organizations that provide critical services would be allowed to discriminate against LGBT patrons and others, like single moms and religious minorities; citing religious beliefs as the rationale.
- In Georgia, where lawmakers are pushing more than a half-dozen anti-LGBT bills, a Senate committee advanced SB 284, a so-called “First Amendment Defense Act.” An amendment to the bill makes the legislation even worse than any of the other pending legislation and blurs the line between the separation of Church and state. Similar to the Virginia legislation, this bill would also allow service providers, individuals and businesses to refuse services to LGBT people and others. The bill is now headed to the full Senate. Freedom for All Americans is a founding partner of the Georgia Unites Against Discrimination coalition, which in just the last few days has generated 35,000 messages from across the state to lawmakers speaking out against the legislation.
- In South Dakota, the Senate passed legislation that would force transgender students in public schools to use restrooms, locker rooms, and facilities that correspond with their biological sex, ignoring their gender identity or expression. House Bill 1008, which will now go before Governor Dennis Daugaard for approval or veto, would require all students to provide a birth certificate or blood test results showing their biological birth before being allowed to use the restroom. Read more here.
These three bills are part of a larger effort to enact anti-LGBT legislation in states across the country. Freedom for All Americans is tracking more than one hundred bills all across the nation that seek to codify discrimination against LGBT Americans – whether it’s through the denial of services or even singling out transgender youth in schools.
McTighe responded more broadly to these anti-LGBT attacks:
“We’re in the middle of a challenging legislative session not just for LGBT Americans, but for women, religious minorities and many others. But we’re also seeing unprecedented support for comprehensive nondiscrimination measures. Businesses big and small, people of faith and Republicans are relentlessly making the case for why nondiscrimination protections are so important. Freedom for All Americans will continue working to advance these comprehensive bills, as well as fighting to defeat harmful bills like those we’re seeing in Virginia, Georgia, South Dakota and elsewhere.”