Progress for LGBT Equality as Discriminatory Bills Fail in Multiple States

March 4, 2016 • 1:03 pm

WASHINGTON – Bills singling out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans failed or suffered severe setbacks in states across the nation this week, amid growing public backlash from businesses, people of faith and even conservatives against discriminatory legislation. In South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed the invasive “Genital Check Bill;” dangerous legislation which would have made it illegal for transgender youth to use the restroom that matches the gender they live as every day. In West Virginia, lawmakers in the Senate voted overwhelmingly – and across party lines – to defeat a religious refusals bill which would have allowed businesses and individuals to discriminate against same-sex couples and others. And in Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal – himself a Southern Baptist – cited his faith as one of the main reasons he opposed the state’s broad License to Discriminate legislation.

“Our opponents have launched an unprecedented onslaught of anti-LGBT legislation this session, but this week we saw their attempts to advance discrimination fail in a number of states,” said Matt McTighe, Freedom for All Americans executive director. “A growing number of Americans understand that freedom of religion is already protected under the First Amendment, and that nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people do absolutely nothing to threaten that. Freedom for All Americans will continue working in states across the country to stop the harmful bills that were killed this week in places like South Dakota and West Virginia, and advance comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for everyone.”

Here’s a look at some of the biggest developments in state legislatures this week:

South Dakota

The LGBT community celebrated a huge victory on Wednesday when South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed House Bill 1008, also known as the “Genital Check Bill.” If signed into law, South Dakota would have been the first state in the Union to make it illegal for transgender students to use the restroom that matches the gender they live as everyday. While some legislators tried to override the veto, the vote failed and the veto was sustained.

Freedom for All Americans worked with state and national partners, including the ACLU of South Dakota, on the campaign to defeat HB 1008. Freedom for All Americans supported lobbyists on the ground in South Dakota, provided strategic communications guidance and digital content, and channeled thousands of messages to the governor urging him to veto through its States Action Team.

West Virginia

Lawmakers in Charleston on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to defeat HB 4012, a discriminatory religious exemptions bill which would have allowed individuals and businesses to deny services to same-sex couples and others. The victory was due to the hard work of local advocates and groups like Fairness West Virginia, which worked to raise business and constituent opposition to the discriminatory legislation.


While the nation watched the demise of South Dakota’s “Genital Check Bill,” Tennessee lawmakers were busy introducing similar legislation. The measure, which will be heard in committee next week, is another dangerous and invasive attempt to ban transgender students from using the restroom that matches the gender they live as everyday. The bill would require students in any school, college or university to show a birth certificate before they are allowed to use the restroom.

Washington State

Opponents of a Washington State Human Rights Commission rule ensuring transgender people are protected from discrimination are continuing to promise a ballot fight over the matter, and this week they filed their initiative paperwork. The opposition must collect around 250,000 signatures from registered voters by July 8thto qualify for the ballot this November. These are the same opponents who, several weeks ago, actually actively encouraged men to break state law in protest by entering and disrobing in women’s locker rooms.


Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal spoke out forcefully yesterday against HB 757, the “License to Discriminate” legislation which would allow individuals, faith-based organizations receiving taxpayer dollars, and other businesses to deny services to same-sex couples. Deal cited his own religion in opposing the bill’s current form: “We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”

Deal said the bill was not on his agenda for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends March 24. His remarks come as a growing number of conservatives – include a former top Santorum staffer in the state, as well as a former official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – speak out against the License to Discriminate.

For more details on these bills and activity in other states, please visit

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.


[fbcomments url=""]