Freedom for All Americans’ LGBTQ Legislative Outlook for 2019By Hannah Willard • December 21, 2018 • 12:38 pm
The 2019 legislative session will offer LGBTQ advocates the opportunity to advance proactive nondiscrimination protections in several state legislatures while generating momentum for action at the federal level. The incoming U.S. House majority has already indicated they plan to prioritize a federal nondiscrimination bill in the coming session, and Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) will be organizing its work in several priority states to ensure progress at the local and state levels translates into energy for advancing a federal bill in Congress.
FFAA led successful campaigns in 2018 that protected or advanced nondiscrimination protections for approximately 325,000 LGBTQ Americans. FFAA helped defend transgender nondiscrimination laws in Anchorage and Massachusetts, and we led the successful effort to enact a transgender nondiscrimination law in New Hampshire. The LGBTQ movement learned valuable lessons in 2018 – from how to debunk the opposition’s scare tactics to how to win over more vulnerable supporters – that position advocates to hit the ground running in 2019.
“Freedom for All Americans was founded with a singular goal in mind: to ensure that all LGBTQ Americans are protected from discrimination, no matter which state they call home,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “Making progress in state legislatures is one of the most important ways to set the stage for a comprehensive federal nondiscrimination law that protects LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and public spaces. By bringing our battle-tested playbook to states like Virginia, New York, and Florida, we can build the momentum needed to secure lasting liberty for the LGBTQ community.”
Here are the states where FFAA is anticipating movement in 2019:
New York: Surprisingly, New York law does not explicitly protect transgender people from discrimination. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order in 2015 extending some nondiscrimination protections to transgender people – but those protections are not codified in state law, and Cuomo’s order could be undone by a future administration. That’s why legislators have introduced the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) for the last 15 years. GENDA would build on Governor Cuomo’s previously issued regulations to provide comprehensive and explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodations. GENDA has consistently passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support but has failed to gain ground in the state Senate. Following the 2018 midterms and a subsequent shift of power in the state Senate, New York advocates are hopeful GENDA will finally pass and become law this year. New York state is home to approximately 700,413 LGBTQ Americans.
Virginia: For the past three years, the Republican-controlled Virginia Senate has passed two pieces of nondiscrimination legislation that would provide protections for LGBTQ Virginians in public employment and housing. The bills enjoy bipartisan support in the House of Delegates as well, though they have not yet reached the House floor for a vote. This year, support has continued to grow and advocates are hopeful they’ll secure passage of these two pieces of legislation. Virginia is home to approximately 222,417 LGBTQ people.
Ohio: Efforts to pass the Ohio Fairness Act, which would provide protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations for LGBTQ people, are happening now while legislators are in session. The Columbus Chamber is backing the bill, arguing that it will make Ohio more competitive for corporate investment and the war for talent. Ohio is home to approximately 342,084 LGBTQ people.
Florida: The Florida Competitive Workforce Act would revise Florida’s civil rights laws to ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill enjoys bipartisan support in both chambers and is supported by Florida Competes, a statewide business coalition comprised of more than 450 small and large businesses. Florida is home to approximately 691,561 LGBTQ people.
In addition to advancing nondiscrimination protections where possible, advocates in a number of other states currently lacking comprehensive and explicit nondiscrimination measures are preparing for legislative sessions that could yield attempts to advance hostile, anti-LGBTQ bills.
“None of us are naive about the challenges facing the LGBTQ movement, but with our recent victories we have something now that we didn’t several years ago: a clearer playbook for success,” added Davis. “Just this year, our movement successfully countered efforts to repeal protections for transgender people in Anchorage, Montana, and Massachusetts, and we’re seeing growing evidence that Americans understand LGBTQ equality is not at odds with protecting our nation’s First Amendment. We’ll continue to build bridges with Americans from all walks of life and elected officials on both sides of the aisle in order to hold the line and prevent anti-LGBTQ bills from becoming law.”
Here are some of the states where FFAA is anticipating defensive fights in 2019:
Georgia: Georgia has been home to many of the nation’s high-profile fights over anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent years – most notably in 2016, when Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a sweeping ‘License to Discriminate’ bill following an unprecedented outcry from the business community, people of faith, conservatives, the entertainment industry, and many of the state’s major sports teams. Despite Gov. Deal’s veto, lawmakers in the state legislature have revisited various anti-LGBTQ proposals every year. This year, Governor-Elect Brian Kemp has signaled his willingness to support anti-LGBTQ legislation, setting up a potential fight that could have significant implications for LGBTQ Georgians and the state’s economy. Georgia is home to approximately 311,953 LGBTQ people.
Texas: Texas legislators filed dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills in 2017 and passed one, a law that allows taxpayer-funded child welfare providers to refuse to place children with LGBTQ families. They focused their efforts primarily on passing an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” and convened a special legislative session to pass the bill after failing to do so during regular session. They failed in large part because a deep coalition of businesses, civil rights leaders, faith leaders, conservatives, women’s safety advocates, law enforcement, and many others came together to rebuff the discriminatory attempts. Some of the most prominent anti-LGBTQ lawmakers from the 2017 session lost their seats in the 2018 midterms – but advocates are still bracing for another year of defense in the Lone Star State. Texas is home to approximately 740,448 LGBTQ people.
Freedom for All Americans has developed some of the most cutting-edge tools in our movement, like our litigation tracker and a brand new storytelling hub called Faces of Freedom that houses the movement’s top spokespeople. We also bring together top businesses through America Competes, providing the connective tissue between Fortune 500 companies who want to engage in LGBTQ advocacy and the state business coalitions on the front lines.
For more information on the efforts to secure comprehensive and enduring nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, visit www.freedomforallamericans.org.
*Population numbers are estimates available via the Movement Advancement Project.