This Week in Nondiscrimination: A New Campaign Launches, Existing Campaigns Move Forward, and Anti-LGBTQ Bills Continue in CO and OK

By Shane Stahl • April 20, 2018 • 4:46 pm

While New Hampshire kept moving forward in the fight to pass comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination protections with an important hearing, and Massachusetts saw a series of Boston Globe articles examine the importance of the state’s November election to defend transgender dignity, bad legislation continued to require pushback in Oklahoma and Colorado. Meanwhile, a new campaign was launched in Montana to combat an anti-transgender ballot initiative there. Here’s what you might have missed for the week of April 15!

NEW HAMPSHIRE

On Monday April 16, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee held a packed hearing on HB 1319, legislation that would add comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people to existing state civil rights law.

The committee hearing is the penultimate step in passing the bill into law; regardless of the committee’s findings, the bill will still make its way to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Previously, HB 1319 cleared two House committees, Judiciary and Health and Human Services, and was voted ‘ought to pass’ by a vote of 195-129 on the House floor.

If the bill passes in the Senate, Republican Governor Chris Sununu has indicated he will sign it into law. In late December, Sununu convened a task force specifically charged with investigating incidents of discrimination, including that against transgender people.

Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to pass nondiscrimination protections, has led the charge in these efforts for over two years; Freedom For All Americans is proud to be a founding and leading member of the campaign. To learn more, visit their website here.

MONTANA

On Tuesday, April 17, Free and Fair Montana launched their official campaign to defeat a dangerous new effort to force anti-transgender discrimination onto the ballot in Montana. The ballot initiative, I-183, is eerily similar to Proposition 1 in Anchorage and would enshrine discrimination against transgender people into state law.

At its core, I-183 is an attack on transgender and non-binary Montanans; it would prevent transgender and non-binary Montanans from participating in certain aspects of public life in communities across the state. Like other laws and ballot measures that have been proposed in various states and localities, I-183 is meant to capitalize on the fears and uncertainties of voters and target Montana’s transgender community.

On the day of the launch, the campaign said:

“I-183 would force people to use public accommodations like restrooms and locker rooms that align with the gender on their original birth certificate instead of the gender by which they live and identify. I-183 would make work, school, and recreation unsafe for transgender Montanans; put local government and state agencies at risk of expensive, unnecessary lawsuits; and fail to further protect anyone from assault or rape, as these things are already illegal in Montana. I-183 would also jeopardize your privacy by forcing you to prove your gender to anyone who requests to see your paperwork before you enter a public facility.”

To learn more about the Free and Fair Montana campaign, click here.

OKLAHOMA

An anti-LGBTQ adoption bill currently being considered by the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week saw coordinated opposition in the form of a letter submitted and signed by myriad child welfare organizations.

SB 1140 would allow private and taxpayer funded adoption and foster agencies to refuse to place a child with an LGBTQ person by claiming a religious or moral objection.

“It is tragic that while we have thousands of young people without loving and committed homes, lawmakers are trying to further limit placements by making state funded discrimination the law of the land,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma, the state’s leading LGBTQ equality group. “Child welfare experts and lawyers alike agree that this legislation is harmful, stigmatizing, and egregiously unconstitutional. Rather than grandstanding not the backs of already oppressed communities it is time for legislators to address the real problems facing our society and concentrate on finding homes for homeless youth rather than turning away qualified parents.”

Organizations that signed on to the letter include the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, the Child Welfare League of America, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children. To read the letter in full, click here.

MASSACHUSETTS

This week, one of the state’s largest papers, The Boston Globe, featured several articles highlighting the importance of this November’s election, where Massachusetts will be the first state in the country forced to go to the ballot to defend transgender dignity.

The Bay State has had comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations on the books since 2016. However, opponents of these protections were able to clear a low threshold of petition signatures to force the issue to the ballot on this year’s ballot. Massachusetts is one of only 18 states in the country with comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The paper highlights the efforts of Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign to defend protections (of which Freedom For All Americans is a founding and leading member); to date, they have raised $2 million in their efforts, and built an impressive coalition of voices from business owners to every single professional New England sports team. Still, the campaign knows they will have to continue fundraising and voter engagement efforts to be successful in November.

“If they succeed in repealing equal rights in Massachusetts, they can succeed anywhere,” Phil Sherwood, campaign manager for Freedom for All Massachusetts, told the Globe.

The second Globe article focused on two families with transgender children who are doing their part to speak out against transgender discrimination. Beryl and Vernon Domingo, along with Dianne and Leon Monnin, are all parents of transgender sons, and are speaking out on behalf of their children.

“There will be a lot of fear-mongering ads out there, and it’s very important to get a balanced picture out,” Dianne says. “It’s just a case of civil rights as far as we’re concerned.”

“On November 6, there will be an attempt to roll back protections for transgender people,” Vernon Domingo told a recent audience. “We should never be voting on civil rights. Civil rights are human rights and should be recognized as such.”

To learn more about Freedom Massachusetts, click here to visit their website.

COLORADO

On Wednesday. The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee voted to add detrimental amendments to a bill that would re-authorize funding for the state’s Civil Rights Commission, the group charged with protecting Coloradans from discrimination.

While the House passed a clean version of the bill, opponents in the Senate have added amendments that would not only make it more difficult for Coloradans who have been discriminated against to seek justice, but would weaken protections for Coloradans who have been discriminated against.

“Protecting the civil rights of every Coloradan across the state should not be a political issue,” said Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, the state’s leading equality group.

The commission is currently named as the defendant in the Masterpiece Supreme Court case, concerning a Colorado baker who refused service to a same sex couple by claiming his religious beliefs prevented him from doing so. A decision in Masterpiece is expected by the end of June.


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