This Week in LGBTQ Non-Discrimination: Bill Introductions, Discriminatory Moves, and More

By Shane Stahl • February 16, 2018 • 5:55 pm

This week in the continuing fight for LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination nationwide, we saw continued legislative pro-LGBTQ victory in South Dakota and a hearing in New Hampshire full of powerful testimony in support of transgender non-discrimination protections in the Granite State.

However, moves to defund a state civil rights commission and the introduction of an anti-LGBTQ bill in Wisconsin, as well as pushback from an Arizona legislator on statewide non-discrimination protections caused further concern for LGBTQ advocates across the country. Here, our roundup for the week of February 11:

SOUTH DAKOTA


On February 12, South Dakota lawmakers effectively killed a bill, SB 1296, that would have required schools to make their bathroom policies concerning transgender students public. The bill was widely derided as a thinly veiled attempt to force anti-transgender policies onto schools.

“We have discussed and discussed and discussed this,” said Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton. “Every time this bill is introduced it targets a vulnerable population, and I regret that very much.”

“Bills like this try to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Wade Pogany, executive director of Associated School Boards of South Dakota. “Schools make it work. We’ve asked repeatedly to allow school boards and local schools to handle these issues, so let’s let them handle it.”

Another anti-transgender bill, SB 160, was also withdrawn by lead sponsor Phil Jensen. The bill would have banned schools from teaching students about gender identity. Nathan Smith, public policy director at GLSEN, a national group focused on safe schools for LGBTQ students, said the proposal’s end is “good for South Dakota students.”

COLORADO

After a previous vote to withhold funding from the state’s Civil Rights Commission (CCRC), a hearing was held in the Colorado legislature on February 13 to consider reauthorizing the commission itself to continue operating for the next 9 years. The CCRC investigates and helps prosecute cases of discrimination, including that against LGBTQ people, and is one of the organizations that brought the Masterpiece case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which concerns a bakery who refused service to a same sex couple by claiming a religious exemption.

Every 9 years, state commissions are brought for “sunset review,” where lawmakers consider whether or not the commissions ought to remain in existence. This vote comes at a crucial time, following oral arguments in the Masterpiece case in December 2017, with a ruling from the Court expected to be announced mid-2018.

“If the Civil Rights Division were to go away, it would mean there is no entity to investigate cases of discrimination [outside of the courtroom],” says Daniel Ramos, executive director of LGBTQ nonprofit One Colorado, adding that without the division, only those who can afford court costs and lawyers could ever afford justice.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee convened on February 13 to finish testimony from a previous hearing regarding HB 1319, which would add comprehensive non-discriminations for transgender people to existing civil rights law.

Over three hours, more than a dozen people gave emotional testimony, most of them openly transgender Granite Staters. Several parents of transgender children also spoke before the committee.

For many transgender Granite Staters, workplace discrimination like this is inescapable. Another testifier, Liam Magan of Keene, spoke about being harassed and mistreated by coworkers so badly that he had to leave a job he loved: “I support HB 1319 because it provides protection for transgender people who are discriminated on the job like I was. Everyone deserves the right to be protected from discrimination in the workplace, and to be able to live as who they are freely and without fear.”

Laura Morrisson, a Concord native, spoke about her daughter who was moving back to New Hampshire to put down roots and start a family. Laura worried that her daughter and her daughter’s family would face discrimination if HB 1319 doesn’t pass.

“Isn’t this the demographic we are hoping to attract to New Hampshire? Young adults moving back to the state? If so, then we should be opening doors instead of putting up fences to show the world that New Hampshire does not support discrimination in any form.”

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on HB 1319 in the coming days and will provide a recommendation of Ought to Pass or Inexpedient to Legislate.

WISCONSIN


On February 8, HRC, Fair Wisconsin, the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Freedom for All Americans, announced their opposition to two pieces of legislation moving through the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Companion bills AB748 and SB634 would prevent local governments from enacting their own policies for local communities and strip away existing citywide employment non-discrimination protections. AB748 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Local Government on Wednesday, while SB634 advanced out of committee the week of January 28.

“Preemption is a power grab, and irresponsibly broad legislation like this puts growing economies at risk,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “When state lawmakers prevent communities from passing economic policies that work for them, including ordinances that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, they hinder economic growth and development. Not only would this bill put Wisconsin out of step with the rest of the country, it would prohibit its cities from being able to compete for the best jobs and retain the best talent. We urge the Wisconsin legislature to avoid turning the clock back on Wisconsin and to reject this dangerous legislation.”

The legislation is eerily similar to North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, which rendered municipalities powerless in enforcing local non-discrimination protections. As a result, the state lost over $3 billion in revenue, with major corporations, and high profile sports teams and entertainers refusing to do business in the Tar Heel State.

GEORGIA

A new adoption bill introduced in the state Senate could open the door for discrimination against LGBTQ people in adoption.

SB 375, spearheaded by Senators William Ligon and Greg Kirk, would allow adoption agencies — including taxpayer-funded ones — to refuse to work with same-sex couples or LGBT youth based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

If SB 375 passes, it would cause very real damage. Research from the Williams Institute shows that same-sex couples are four times more likely than opposite-sex couples to be raising adopted children, and six times more likely to be raising foster children. Limiting LGBT Georgians’ ability to adopt will reduce the pool of available, loving homes.

State legislators are toying with the lives of the over 12,000 in Georgia’s adoption and foster care system. Lawmakers have already passed a clean adoption bill with no anti-LGBTQ amendments, but some continue to tie adoption and discrimination together.

Visit Georgia Unites Against Discrimination to learn more about the campaign to pass comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections, and stay up to date with the latest news and reports.

ARIZONA

Following the introduction of  HB 2586, a bill that would enact statewide protections for LGBTQ people last week, the state’s major LGBTQ rights group One Community is urging Arizonans to call the chair of the chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, Eddie Farnsworth, in an effort to get him to grant the bill a hearing. Chairman Farnsworth is on record as saying he would “probably not” allow the bill a hearing, as he is opposed to the language.

A new poll conducted by One Community Foundation and OH Productive Insights found that on overwhelming majority of Arizonans are in favor of comprehensive non-discrimination protections.

“This poll demonstrates what we’ve known for quite some time – treating people fairly and with respect isn’t a partisan issue. General Election voters overwhelmingly support equal protection policies, and well over half of self-identified conservatives support equal treatment policies as well.  Arizonans understand that equal treatment is not only the right thing to do, but if we want to build a sustainable economy and attract and retain the very best then we must be open for business to everyone on the same terms,” said Angela Hughey, Co-Founder and President of ONE Community and ONE Community Foundation.

Follow all the latest news on non-discrimination bills across the country with our Legislative Tracker.


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