Lawmakers in Multiple States Eye LGBTQ Protections as State Legislatures Convene

January 10, 2019 • 10:48 am
WASHINGTON – Legislatures across the country are beginning their 2019 legislative sessions this week, and bills that advance LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections have already surfaced in multiple states. Yesterday, lawmakers began legislative sessions in New York and Virginia, where LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws are expected to advance. Thirty-one states nationwide lack explicit and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) is partnering with local advocates in several states to advance nondiscrimination legislation this year.

Momentum is building for LGBTQ protections nationwide. In just the last four weeks, four governors signed executive orders prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees – including outgoing GOP Governors John Kasich (OH) and Rick Snyder (MI), and new Governors Gretchen Whitmer (MI) and Tony Evers (WI). The new U.S. House majority has also indicated they plan to prioritize the Equality Act which would provide explicit and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections to all LGBTQ Americans.

“The momentum for LGBTQ nondiscrimination is undeniable,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “By moving the ball forward in states like Virginia, New York, Michigan, and Ohio, we can create the momentum we need to secure lasting freedom for the LGBTQ community through passage of federal nondiscrimination protections.”

FFAA’s work in the states is crucial to building support for federal nondiscrimination protections. In 2018, FFAA led successful campaigns that protected or advanced nondiscrimination protections for approximately 325,000 LGBTQ Americans. FFAA helped defend transgender nondiscrimination laws in Anchorage and Massachusetts, and 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 positions FFAA and other advocates to hit the ground running in 2019.

“We know Americans are ready to move beyond the politics of division and pass laws that reflect the basic American values of liberty and justice for all,” added Davis. “It’s when Americans realize that LGBTQ people are their friends, family members, and neighbors, working alongside them and sharing similar dreams to build a good life for themselves and their families, that minds are changed and hearts are won. Our victories in the states are incredibly important to ensuring lawmakers nationwide recognize the deep support that exists for treating all LGBTQ Americans with dignity and respect.”

New York legislators have introduced the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) for the last 15 years because New York law does not yet explicitly protect transgender people from discrimination. Governor Cuomo and Senate leadership have both identified GENDA as a top priority this year and advocates are optimistic it will pass. 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. 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.

For the past three years in Virginia, the Republican-controlled 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 never reached the House floor for a vote. This year, support has continued to grow and advocates are hopeful for secure passage of these two pieces of legislation.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; businesses large and small; people of faith; and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

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