This Week in Nondiscrimination: Lawmakers Ignore Damage of Anti-LGBT Legislation, Advancing Discriminatory Bills

By Adam Polaski • March 18, 2017 • 11:26 am

Anti-LGBT bills advanced in several states this week, with lawmakers continuing to ignore the dreadful consequences of passing discriminatory legislation – consequences that impact not just the LGBT community but also the entire economy and reputation of these states as a whole. This week, as the NCAA’s March Madness tournament kicked into high gear, we saw continuing evidence of the damage anti-LGBT legislation has on states, with coaches and players speaking out against North Carolina’s HB2. Several key games from the tournament were originally scheduled to be played in North Carolina but have since been moved to other states, solely because of HB2.

Each weekend 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 next 2017 entry – a look at the landscape for LGBT non-discrimination in these four states:

Arkansas

Arkansas lawmakers are considering a slate of discriminatory, anti-LGBT bills this week and next. On Friday afternoon, the House passed House Bill 1986, which would ban transgender individuals from using the restroom that matches their gender, with a deceptive 65-3 vote — 18 members didn’t vote, while another 14 voted present. Republicans control the House 76-24.

Another anti-transgender bill, House Bill 1894, failed in committee, but could be presented again. This bill would require birth certificates list the gender marker that matches one’s gender assignment at birth. This measure would open transgender individuals to discrimination in all areas of their lives, especially when seeking legal documents, jobs and more.

Thankfully, legislators stood against Senate Joint Resolution 7, which called for a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The resolution failed on the House floor 29-41, with 30 members not voting.

Georgia

Lawmakers on Georgia’s Senate Judiciary Committee are making a last-minute attempt to add anti-LGBT language onto an otherwise badly needed bill that updates adoption laws in the Peach State. State Sen. William Ligon advanced an amendment to HB 159 that would allow adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funding to turn away same-sex couples and LGBT people. The committee – which includes Sens. Josh McKoon and Greg Kirk, who have championed divisive and discriminatory legislation in past years – advanced the bill as amended.

The bill’s Republican sponsor, Rep. Bert Reeves, objected to the discriminatory amendment; as did the head of the state’s Division of Family and Children Services. The amended bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee. Freedom for All Americans and our partners in the Georgia Unites coalition are working to remove this discriminatory language from an otherwise good bill.

Tennessee

On Thursday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a measure to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples and parents. If the unconstitutional measure is signed into law, House Bill 1111 — and its corresponding bill, Senate Bill 1085 — would require the state to interpret all undefined words such as mother, father, husband and wife, by their “natural and ordinary meaning.” The bill is an attempt to bypass the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marriage equality and all the rights associated with it. The bill awaits action from the state Senate.

The legislature is expected to hear other discriminatory bills next week, including one that would prohibit transgender students form using the restroom that matches the gender they live as everyday and another that will allow publics businesses to discriminate against LGBT patrons.

Texas

This week, the Texas state Senate successfully forced through an anti-transgender, anti-business bill on a 21-10 vote. Senate Bill 6 attempts to ban transgender people from using the restrooms in government buildings, public schools and universities that match the gender they live as everyday. The Senate advanced the bill despite overwhelming opposition from virtually every corner of the state – including businesses, law enforcement, and parents of transgender youth who shared their personal stories during a recent 21-hour marathon hearing.

A strong coalition of advocates have come together to oppose the bill, including the business community, law enforcement, sports leagues, faith leaders and Texans from all walks of life.

Key figures in the House – including Speaker Joe Straus – have expressed opposition to the bill. The Texas Legislature is in session through late May, and there are currently more than 20 other anti-LGBT bills pending in addition to SB 6.


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