Midterms Will Have Historic Implications for LGBTQ Equality

November 5, 2018 • 9:45 am
Voters in MA will weigh-in on transgender nondiscrimination law; record number of LGBTQ candidates seek office nationwide

WASHINGTON – Tomorrow’s midterm elections could yield historic results for LGBTQ Americans – both in terms of pro-LGBTQ policies affirmed and LGBTQ representation in government at the local, state, and federal levels. The most consequential election for the LGBTQ community is in Massachusetts, where voters are weighing in on the Bay State’s law protecting transgender people from discrimination. The measure was signed into law two years ago by Republican Governor Charlie Baker. The Freedom for All Massachusetts campaign has built a diverse coalition in support of the law – it’s brought together more than 1,500 stakeholders from businesses large and small, labor unions, people of faith, parents, teachers, sexual assault prevention experts, conservatives, progressives, and independents – in the largest bipartisan effort in U.S. history to engage voters about what it means to be transgender and what transgender nondiscrimination protections do and don’t do. Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) has served as a national lead partner for three years – playing a central role in the successful push to enact the law in 2016, and in the current campaign to defend the measure.

“A victory in Massachusetts is a victory for transgender Americans nationwide,” said Masen Davis, Freedom for All Americans’ CEO. “Right now, so many members of our community are afraid and uncertain about what the future holds – largely because of the rhetoric and policies coming from the Trump administration. But we know that a majority of Americans from all walks of life support treating transgender people fairly and equally under the law. We’re confident that we’ve executed a campaign  that makes the case for upholding nondiscrimination protections, and we’re incredibly thankful to all of the transgender people who have come forward to share their personal stories as part of this campaign.”

The Freedom for All Massachusetts campaign has centered the voices and stories of transgender Americans – and has not shied away from tackling the deceitful messages of anti-LGBTQ opponents head-on. That campaign strategy proved successful earlier this year in Anchorage and New Hampshire. Tomorrow will be the first time voters will be weighing in at the ballot on transgender nondiscrimination at the state level.

A number of races in a handful of states could determine whether there is a path forward for nondiscrimination legislation in those states in the near-term. In FloridaGeorgiaOhioMichigan, and Arizona, pro-equality gubernatorial candidates have made LGBTQ equality a cornerstone of their campaigns. In Florida – where FFAA has been a lead partner to pass the Competitive Workforce Act – Andrew Gillum has been a consistent champion for the LGBTQ community and could become the first Florida governor to win election on a record of supporting LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Michigan gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette defended the state’s ban on marriage equality that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, joined a 2016 lawsuit challenging federal guidance meant to protect transgender students, and recently issued a controversial legal opinion opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s ability to apply existing anti-discrimination law to gay or transgender residents. Schuette’s opponent – former State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer – is a longtime supporter of equality, who has spoken out in favor of updating the state’s civil rights act to include LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. And in Ohio, the elections’s results could set the stage for lawmakers to advance the Fairness Act during this year’s lame duck session – bringing Ohio one step closer to becoming the 20th state in the nation to pass a comprehensive law that explicitly protects LGBTQ people from discrimination.

“Making progress in state legislatures is one of the most important ways we can generate momentum for action at the federal level,” added Davis. “When we build networks of supporters in key states who understand the importance of enacting comprehensive nondiscrimination laws, we’re doing two things: We’re creating the conditions to pass urgently needed legislation at the state level, and we’re ensuring that lawmakers in Congress understand the strong and bipartisan support they have at home to back a comprehensive federal bill. Tomorrow’s results could very well hypercharge a national conversation around nondiscrimination protections at both the state and federal levels.”

There are nearly 250 openly LGBTQ candidates running for office nationwide. At the federal level, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema is poised to be the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate. In all, four LGBTQ people could make history if their gubernatorial bids are successful: Vermont’s Christine Hallquist could become the first transgender governor; Colorado’s Jared Polis would be the first openly gay man elected; Oregon’s Kate Brown, who is bisexual, is running for her first full-term in office (after winning a special election in 2016); and Lupe Valdez, in Texas, could be the first openly lesbian governor.

For more information on the status of LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in states across the country, and the progress toward winning nondiscrimination for all LGBTQ Americans, visit www.FreedomForAllAmericans.org.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans and Democrats, 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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