This Week in Non-Discrimination: Bad Bills Advance, But a Historic Hearing Could Change NH

By Shane Stahl • February 23, 2018 • 6:10 pm

This week in non-discrimination, we saw two big setbacks with the advance of anti-LGBTQ bills regarding adoption. Conversely, positive news came out of Indiana, and a hearing was scheduled in New Hampshire for a bill that would finally grant transgender people in that state full lived equality.

Below, check out our full roundup on LGBTQ non-discrimination in the legislative session for the week of February 18.

GEORGIA

The afternoon of Friday, February 23, the Georgia state senate passed legislation known as SB 375, which would provide a virtual license to discriminate against LGBTQ people seeking to adopt or foster a child.

The bill would allow adoption agencies, including those funded by taxpayer dollars, to turn away same-sex couples and even refuse to work with children in need who identify as LGBTQ.

In a statement, Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality said:

“No one is trying to undermine freedom of religion in Georgia—that’s why religiously affiliated adoption agencies already enjoy the freedom to work exclusively with families that share their faith values. This legislation goes out of its way to make it harder for loving and committed same-sex couples to start a family—and unfortunately, it’s children in need of permanent homes who will pay the steepest price.”

Child welfare advocates have warned that the bill would be extremely detrimental to the over 14,000 children in Georgia’s foster care and adoption systems; wait times for placement would increase should LGBTQ individuals and couples be denied consideration. Business leaders have also expressed their concerns, saying that such a discriminatory bill has the potential to ruin future business endeavors in the state, including the possibility of Amazon choosing Atlanta as its location for a second world headquarters.

Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, the campaign to win statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in the Peach State, has announced they will lobby the state capitol on March 1.

INDIANA

A bill that would have prevented students from learning about sexual orientation and gender identity without parental consent was amended this week to remove anti-LGBTQ language before being passed through committee.

The original language of the bill could have barred all mention of LGBTQ people without prior parental authorization. A recent report from a coalition of leading advocacy organizations states:

“[S]ex education programs that stigmatize LGBTQ people help cultivate hostile school environments by ignoring LGBTQ identities and experiences, or worse, actively promoting LGBTQ stigma.”

With the acceptance of Amendment 22 to the bill, all anti-LGBTQ language has been stricken. Additionally, the amendment changes the legislation from opt-in to opt-out, meaning that comprehensive sex education will be offered to all students unless their parent or guardian requests their child to be exempted.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Following emotional testimony given last week in support of legislation to provide comprehensive non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the Granite State, the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled for a full vote in the House on March 7.

New Hampshire currently provides protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity or expression. House Bill 1319, also known as #TransBillNH, would amend existing non-discrimination law to include transgender people.

Previously, the committee heard two full days of testimony from people all over the state, including business leaders, faith leaders, and transgender Granite Staters themselves. Governor Chris Sununu, who late last year tasked a special committee to investigate instances of discrimination (including that against transgender people), has indicated that he would sign the legislation.

Read the latest news on HB 1319 at Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to win non-discrimination protections for all transgender Granite Staters.

OKLAHOMA

On Monday, February 19, Senate Bill 1140 passed out of the state senate’s Health and Human Services Committee; the legislation would allow adoption and foster care agencies, including those funded by tax dollars, to openly discriminate against placing a child with LGBTQ individuals or couples by claiming a religious or moral exemption.

Eerily similar to Georgia’s SB 375, the legislation would permit state-sanctioned discrimination, limiting the opportunity for thousands of children in the state’s adoption and foster care systems to be placed in a permanent and loving home.

In addition to SB 1140, there are currently 25 additional pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation filed in the Oklahoma legislature, which would be moved on at any time during the legislative session.


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