This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: Several Anti-LGBT Bills Are Withdrawn While More Positive Legislation is Filed

By Adam Polaski • February 3, 2017 • 5:12 pm

As we head into February, LGBT legislation continues moving in many states – with notable public launches of LGBT-inclusive legislation in Arizona and Florida, and anti-LGBT legislation failing to catch on in several other states, including Wyoming and South Dakota.

On the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral argument for March 28 in a historic case seeking transgender equality, and the Boy Scouts of America announced a new policy that will include transgender boys.

Every Friday 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 six states:

Arizona

Arizona lawmakers are working to make sure LGBT non-discrimination is on the agenda for the 2017 legislative session. On Monday, state Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs and House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios introduced two bills that would update Arizona’s non-discrimination laws to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals as well as veterans.

In introducing the Senate version of the bill, SB 1320, Sen. Hobbs noted the large blind spot that exists in Arizona’s current laws, which prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations—such as stores, hotels, restaurants and hospitals—based on race, skin color, religion, disability, and sex. SB 1320 and House Bill 2364 would add sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to that list.

Business, faith and other community leaders also gathered at Monday’s bill announcement, an event organized by ONE Community, a coalition of businesses and individuals that support LGBT inclusion in Arizona’s business community. Freedom for All Americans congratulates Arizona lawmakers and other local leaders who are getting proactive on the issue of LGBT non-discrimination, and encourages all businesses and lawmakers to support local efforts to make these important changes.

 

Florida

On Thursday in Tallahassee, Florida state lawmakers re-introduced the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, the bill to expand comprehensive non-discrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations to LGBT Floridians. The bipartisan legislation already enjoys the support of the more than 450 businesses working together through the Florida Competes coalition to advance the bill.

Freedom for All Americans is proud to partner with hundreds of businesses and Equality Florida on the Florida Competes coalition, which consists of more than 450 businesses to date, including nine Fortune 500s: AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo. Other members of the coalition include Carnival, ChamberSouth, the Florida Entertainment Group, HSN, the Miami Heat and the University of North Florida.

South Dakota

On Tuesday morning, lawmakers in South Dakota withdrew the anti-transgender SB 115 after facing intense public backlash from all quarters of the state, including from Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard. If passed, the measure would have prohibited transgender students from using the facilities that match the gender they live as everyday.

When asked about the bill, Daugaard told South Dakota Public Broadcasting: “I haven’t heard one instance of a problem in this area. Not one. But we have seen major problems in North Carolina when a bill like this was enacted.”

Texas

This week we learned that Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick hasn’t bothered to consult the largest law enforcement associations in his state about SB 6. That’s surprising, since Patrick consistently says SB 6 is so urgently needed because it is a matter of public safety. The bill would ban transgender people from using restrooms in public schools, universities, and government buildings; and it eradicates the freedom of local municipalities to set their own nondiscrimination policies related to restrooms.

But according to The Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), SB 6 is an unnecessary bill that has nothing to do with public safety. CLEAT’s executive director told the Dallas Morning News this week that the bill was a solution in search of a problem: “Texas has been governing illegal bathroom behavior for a while now. I’m not sure what the problem is that we’re trying to address.”

The law enforcement agencies are joining a growing list of those speaking out against SB 6. In his State of the State address earlier this week, Governor Greg Abbott did not once mention SB 6 when discussing his legislative priorities. And last month, House Speaker Joe Straus warned SB 6 could hurt Texas’ economy. Straus told some of the state’s top business leaders: “There’s been a lot of work put into our state’s economic success…. we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”

Virginia

First the bad news: The House passed HB 2025, which permits taxpayer-funded organizations to claim a religious right to discriminate against LGBT Virginians. It now heads to the Senate. A similar bill was vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe last year. 

However, the House General Laws committee also voted down a pair of anti-LGBT bills this week. HB1667 would have prevented state and local entities from requiring contractors to have LGBT nondiscrimination policies. House Joint Resolution 685 would have granted the House authority to sue the federal government (i.e. over trans student guidelines) should the Attorney General not see a need to take action. Both bills were introduced by state Delegate Bob Marshall, who also saw his anti-trans student bill killed two weeks ago.

And on January 27, the full Senate approved Senate Bill 822, which would add housing protections for LGBT people, as well as Senate Bill 783, which seeks to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination among state employees.

Wyoming

Senate Bill 153, an LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination bill that would protect Wyoming’s LGBT workers was approved by the Republican-dominated Senate Business Committee on a 4-1 vote this week. Unfortunately, the full Senate voted against advancing the bill further, but the committee approval signals important momentum for non-discrimination protections in Wyoming.

Just last week, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead spoke out against anti-LGBT legislation. “Wyoming always wants to be recognized as a state that respects the rights of all people, gay and transgender, (and) respects the religious liberties and rights of people. We should focus on education, we should focus on ‘are we taking care of our seniors’ or ‘what are we doing on roads.’ These issues that we’re talking about, they tend to take a tremendous amount of time, cause a lot of angst, and as you’ve seen them come up before they generally don’t reach the end anyway. If you’re spending five days on that, that’s five days we’re spending trying to figure out how to make sure we have a great education system in our state.”

 


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