This Week in LGBTQ Nondiscrimination: Advances in TN & NH as OK & KS Discrimination Looms

By Shane Stahl • April 27, 2018 • 1:48 pm

This week in the fight for LGBTQ nondiscrimination, anti-LGBTQ legislation was shut down in Tennessee, but dangerous discriminatory adoption bills are threatening Oklahoma and Kansas. New Hampshire continued its march forward toward full lived equality, with one of the final hurdles scheduled for Thursday next week. Furthermore, the Missouri Supreme Court will soon decide if that state’s civil rights law applies to LGBTQ people, after hearing two cases powerfully arguing the point. Below, check out Freedom for All Americans’ rundown of movement in the states for the week of April 22!

NEW HAMPSHIRE

This week in New Hampshire, legislation ensuring comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people continued its path toward becoming law when it advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 1319, which would update the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces to explicitly include transgender residents, was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday – previously, the bill garnered strong bipartisan support, passing out of the House by a 195-129 vote last month.

The committee recommended that HB 1319 be sent to a study committee for further vetting – but regardless of the committee’s recommendation, the bill will advance to the full Senate and move one step forward to becoming law.

Linds Jakows, Freedom New Hampshire Campaign Manager said: “All Granite Staters should be free to live their lives without the fear of discrimination, including transgender people. New Hampshire can’t afford to allow discrimination to continue in our state. I am grateful for the leadership of HB 1319 cosponsor and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and I urge the Senate to swiftly send HB 1319 to the Governor’s desk.”

The full Senate floor vote will take place on Wednesday, May 2.

MISSOURI

This week the Missouri Supreme Court heard two cases involving alleged sex discrimination — one from a transgender male student, the second from an openly gay employee at the Department of Social Services. Lawyers for both plaintiffs argued that state civil rights law protects LGBTQ people from discrimination. PROMO, the state’s leading LGBTQ equality group, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf on both plaintiffs, which can be found here.

In the first case, a transgender student identified only as R.M.A., alleges the Blue Springs School District barred him from using the mens bathroom and locker room facilities upon reaching middle school age. The student transitioned in the fourth grade, received an updated birth certificate, and was permitted to participate in boys’ athletics. Despite all this, the district insisted he use a unisex bathroom; the student’s lawyer put forth that this was a case of sex stereotyping, which previous courts have found illegal.

The second case involves a gay man named Harold Lampley, who asserts his supervisors at the Department of Social Services discriminated against him, according to his lawyer, “because he didn’t exhibit the stereotypical attributes of how a male should appear and behave.” He also said he was retaliated against when he complained. Lampley’s lawyer is arguing a similar case of sex stereotyping. To note: Lampley’s case is not against the Department, but against the MIssouri Human Rights Commission, who determined that he was not protected under existing law as there is no specific language regarding sexual orientation.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, the Missouri Supreme Court does not have a set deadline when it must issue a ruling and can decide cases year-round.

OKLAHOMA

On Thursday, by a vote of 61-25, the Oklahoma House passed SB 1140, dangerous adoption legislation that would allow child welfare and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people when placing children in a home by claiming a “religious or moral exemption.”

The bill is “discriminatory, harmful to youth and completely unnecessary,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma. “We will continue to fight against it becoming law, we will fight it in the court of public opinion, and we will fight it in court if necessary.”

The bill passed over the objections of child welfare and other community organizations who have said clearly that it will hurt, not help, the 9,000+ children in the state’s adoption and foster care system. If LGBTQ families are barred from adopting, all of the children waiting for loving homes will suffer. LGBTQ children, who could legally be refused help by these agencies, stand to suffer the most.

As the bill heads to conference committee, supporters of LGBTQ equal treatment are encouraging people to contact Governor Mary Fallin, encouraging her to veto the legislation should it land on her desk.

Freedom for All Americans is proud to stand with Freedom Oklahoma in securing proactive wins for LGBTQ equal treatment.

MASSACHUSETTS

Freedom For All Massachusetts, the campaign to defend the state’s existing transgender public accommodations law (of which Freedom For All Americans is a founding and leading member), is preparing in the next week to kick off their summer canvass operation, in the hopes to reach thousands of voters over the next several months and speak to them about why the law, coined #TransLawMA, is necessary for all Bay Staters.

In 2016, Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed into law comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations. However, months later, opponents of the law began gathering signatures across the state to force the issue to ballot for repeal, and eventually met the extremely low threshold to proceed. Thus, Massachusetts will be the first state forced to go to the ballot box to defend transgender dignity.

Canvasses will take place across the state, run by four different field organizers. To learn more, visit Freedom Massachusetts here.

TENNESSEE

On April 25 the 2018 Tennessee legislative session came to a close, thereby stopping movement on all anti-LGBTQ legislation that had been put before lawmakers.

Most recently, on April 4, a bill that would have required the state’s attorney general to defend schools accused of anti-transgender discrimination was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. LGBTQ advocates had said the bill could have permitted districts to pass exclusionary bathroom policies, knowing the state would come to their defense in the face of a lawsuit.

Earlier in the session, a bill that would have restricted restroom access for transgender students was also introduced. The bill was very similar to those brought before the legislature in years past, dating back to 2015; however, the bill was withdrawn before it could make its way through committee and to the floor of the House.

Tennessee has long been a battleground for LGBTQ rights, with various bills attempting to regulate restroom access and the ability for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, among other issues brought by lawmakers in recent years.

Freedom For All Americans thanks our partners at the Tennessee Equality Project for their hard work in beating back these discriminatory bills. To learn more about the nondiscrimination legislation considered across the country this year, use our 2018 Legislative Tracker.

KANSAS

This week, some of the leading child welfare agencies across the country joined to submit a letter to the Kansas state legislature opposing legislation that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people when placing children.

Among the groups who signed on to the letter are Kansas Children’s Alliance, Child Welfare League of America, National Center For Adoption and Permanency, and Foster Club. It states, in part: “Stability and security are vital for children’s healthy development. Allowing agencies that serve children waiting for homes to discriminate against potentially qualified parents limits opportunities for children. If we truly wish to act in good conscience towards children in care, we must not enshrine discriminatory practices into the law.”

Equality Kansas, the state’s leading LGBTQ equality group, has already successfully negotiated with lawmakers to remove language that would have allowed agencies to claim religious or moral exemptions when it comes to placement of a child. Currently, the language up for debate involves taxpayer funding for privately funded adoption agencies that openly discriminate against LGBTQ people. There is strong bipartisan agreement that taxpayer money should not be used to discriminate against those same taxpayers.

Currently, 7,000 children are in the Kansas adoption and foster care system.


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