This Week in LGBT Non-Discrimination: Jacksonville Steps Closer to LGBT Protections, While Some States Defeat Anti-LGBT Bills

By Adam Polaski • January 27, 2017 • 5:35 pm

LGBT advocates were met with some positive news this week as a comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination ordinance was heard by the Jacksonville City Council in Florida, following years of advocacy and education from local leaders. In several Midwest states, anti-LGBT legislation failed, another signal of the growing momentum against laws that allow people to cite their religion as an excuse for discrimination. And in South Dakota and Wyoming, Republican Governors expressed disapproval of laws that would restrict restroom access for transgender people.

Every Friday 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 second 2017 entry – a look at the landscape for LGBT non-discrimination in these eight states:

Texas

Opposition continues to grow to SB 6, the anti-business, anti-transgender bill in Texas. The discriminatory measure would bar transgender people from using restrooms in public schools, universities and government buildings. Late last week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus offered his strongest rebuke yet of the bill. At a meeting with members of the Texas Association of Business, Straus compared SB 6 to North Carolina’s HB 2 law and noted that business leaders and policymakers he spoke with were “watching what happened in North Carolina, and they are not enthusiastic about getting that type of attention.” The GOP speaker added: “There’s been a lot of work put into our state’s economic success…. we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”

Businesses big and small continue to oppose the legislation, and participation in the Keep Texas Open for Business coalition – led by the Texas Association of Business – continues to grow. A majority of the state’s leading convention and visitors’ bureaus, more than 200 small businesses from across Texas, and major corporations including Apple Dell, IBM and SXSW oppose the legislation.

Wyoming

Lawmakers in Wyoming this week announced plans to withdraw House Bill 135, an anti-LGBT bill that purported to protect religious freedom – but in reality, was designed to allow any individual, business, or organization to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT Wyomingites. It also would have prevented local governments from enforcing LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances.

Republican Governor Matt Mead also spoke out against the bill – and other efforts to discriminate against LGBT people in Wyoming. He said anti-LGBT bills like these are distractions:

“Wyoming always wants to be recognized as a state that respects the rights of all people, gay and transgender, (and) respects the religious liberties and rights of people. We should focus on education, we should focus on ‘are we taking care of our seniors’ or ‘what are we doing on roads.’ These issues that we’re talking about, they tend to take a tremendous amount of time, cause a lot of angst, and as you’ve seen them come up before they generally don’t reach the end anyway. If you’re spending five days on that, that’s five days we’re spending trying to figure out how to make sure we have a great education system in our state.”

Congratulations to the team at Wyoming Equality on the victory this week. Now, the organization is pushing supporters toward efforts to pass proactive LGBT protections in the Equality State.

Colorado

This week a House panel in Colorado rejected a terrible bill that sought to allow Coloradans to cite their religion as an excuse to discriminate. The bill purported to protect religious freedom, but in reality was designed to allow any individual, business, or organization to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT Coloradans. It was introduced by Rep. Stephen Humphrey. This is the third year in a row that the bill was rejected.

Cheers to One Colorado, the statewide organization committed to LGBT equality, and the Denver Chamber of Commerce and numerous faith leaders, on the big win here.

In other news, Rep. Denaya Esgar introduced a bill to protect the privacy rights of transgender Coloradans by repealing a law requiring a court order indicating that a person’s sex has been changed by surgical procedure before one can obtain a new birth certificate.

Florida

Passage of comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination protections continued to move forward in Jacksonville, Florida, one of the largest cities in the country without protections for LGBT people.

On Tuesday, January 24, the Jacksonville City Council held a hearing on plans to update the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance, hosting ten hours of testimony, the bulk of which was in support of the ordinance. There was record attendance at the meeting – so much that testimony on the LGBT ordinance surged into the next morning.

The final hearing and vote on the ordinance is scheduled for February 14. We’re proud to be working with the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality on the important work to pass these protections.

South Dakota

On Friday, January 27 South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard announced that he will once again veto legislation targeting transgender students for discrimination. Senate Bill 115, which was introduced earlier this week, would prohibit transgender students from using the locker rooms that match the gender they live as everyday. A similar bill passed the South Dakota Legislature in 2016 but was vetoed by Gov. Daugaard, and his veto was sustained.

“I haven’t heard one instance of a problem in this area. Not one. But we have seen major problems in North Carolina when a bill like this was enacted,” Daugaard told the South Dakota Public Broadcasting. “Sioux Falls, in particular, has millions of dollars of NCAA tournaments planned in the next several years that I believe will be at risk if the state proceeds in an area where we need not proceed.”

Georgia

Today, the Williams Institute released a landmark report that investigates the economic implications of LGBT discrimination—and the costs are high.

Our friends at Georgia Unites Against Discrimination posted this week: “The report makes the case that “stigma and discrimination have been linked to negative economic impacts on governments, businesses, and the economy,” and looks at three criteria: discrimination in employment and other settings; bullying and family rejection of youth; and health disparities experienced by LGBT people. … According to the report, employment discrimination against LGBT people could cost Georgia taxpayers $1,048,000 in state Medicaid expenditures. Individual public and private employers stand to lose $9,100 per employee that leaves the state or changes jobs because of workplace discrimination.”

Read more about the report from Georgia Unites Against Discrimination.

Tennessee

Tennessee’s business community is demonstrating without a doubt that our state’s economic future rests on inclusivity and nondiscrimination. rapid growth of Tennessee Thrives, a new coalition dedicated to promoting an attractive, prosperous and economically vibrant Tennessee and promoting policies that ensure fair and equal treatment for all of Tennessee’s residents and visitors.

More the 150 businesses have joined the coalition since it launched last December, doubling the group’s membership in less than a month. As of today, 350+ businesses have signed the coalition pledge, which highlights the important role diversity plays in “maintaining Tennessee’s strong brand as a growing and exciting home for business innovation” and ability compete nationally and globally for talented workers.

Virginia

An anti-LGBT bill in Virginia advanced through the House of Delegates Committee on Thursday, January 26. The bill claims to protect religious freedom – but it really would allow any religiously affiliated individual, business, or organization to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT Virginians, even while accepting taxpayer dollars.  This bill was introduced by Rep. Nicholas Freitas.

Just last week, a subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates voted to defeat legislation that would have restricted transgender people from using the restroom in line with their gender identity.

The team at Equality Virginia, the statewide organization working toward LGBT equality, is hard at work defeating these anti-LGBT bills while pushing forward on positive legislation.


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