This Week in Non-Discrimination: Lawmakers Miss Opportunity to Strengthen Their States

By Adam Polaski • February 10, 2018 • 5:29 pm

It’s been another busy week for the movement to win LGBTQ non-discrimination as multiple states considered, scheduled hearings, and took votes on legislation to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

The biggest news of the week came in Virginia, where lawmakers stonewalled legislation with overwhelming public support and killed several pro-LGBTQ bills. Next week decision-makers in New Hampshire have the chance to pull ahead and finally pass transgender-inclusive legislation. Here’s a look at everything that happened this week concerning LGBTQ non-discrimination protections:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

In New Hampshire, the work to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination is ramping up on multiple fronts.

On Tuesday, February 13  the House Judiciary Committee will conclude its hearing on a bill to secure comprehensive protections for transgender Granite Staters. The hearing on HB1319 began at the beginning of February but, due to an overwhelming number of people who showed up to testify in favor of the bill, the hearing needed to be continued on an additional day. Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to pass #TransBillNH, commented this week: “Our game plan hasn’t changed: We need to bring the same enthusiasm, positive message, and numbers next week that we brought to the first hearing.” Freedom for All Americans is proud to be a leading and founding member of Freedom NH.

In related news, a bill to prohibit dangerous and discriminatory “ex-gay therapy” passed out of the New Hampshire House by a vote of 179-171, spelling broad momentum for LGBTQ Granite Staters.

ALASKA

Residents in Anchorage, Alaska are preparing for an election in less than two months – and on the ballot will be Proposition 1, which anti-LGBTQ activists have placed on the ballot in order to gut the city’s LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. The ballot initiative would repeal key protections for transgender people in Anchorage.

Backers of Proposition 1 claim again and again that their goal is to protect women from harassment – but that is a lie, since Proposition 1 would do nothing to defend women from mistreatment. That’s why Fair Anchorage, the campaign to defeat Proposition 1, launched a powerful new ad featuring women across Anchorage speaking out against Proposition 1 with one simple message: Do not harm transgender people in the name of women. Take a look above.

Freedom for All Americans is proud to support the efforts of Fair Anchorage. 

GEORGIA:

Bad news: A disastrous bill, SB 375, which would give taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies a License to Discriminate against LGBTQ youth and same-sex couples, is advancing in the Georgia Senate, with a hearing from the full Judiciary Committee possible as soon as Tuesday, February 13. Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, of which Freedom for All Americans is a part, is leading the charge to defeat the discriminatory legislation.

The news comes on the heels of the passage of a separate adoption bill that strengthened Georgia’s children and families and passed without anti-LGBTQ amendments, which had been threatened. This positive bill is headed to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk.

VIRGINIA:

On February 8, lawmakers in Virginia’s House of Delegates summarily killed four bills that would have ensured more equal treatment under the law for LGBTQ people across the Commonwealth. Several of the bills dismissed today enjoyed bipartisan support in Richmond and had easily cleared the State Senate. But earlier in the week House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) moved swiftly and with little public notice to kill the bills in subcommittee.

After redirecting four pro-LGBT bills and rushing a vote with just over 24 hours notice, the House General Laws subcommittee appeared to follow the lead of Speaker Cox in voting down four LGBT nondiscrimination bills. They included the fully comprehensive bill to secure LGBTQ non-discrimination  (HB401) as well as bills to protect LGBTQ people in housing (SB423) and public employment (SB202), which both had passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Now Freedom for All Americans is determined to keep up the fight, arm in arm with Equality Virginia, during the 2019 legislative session.

SOUTH DAKOTA:

South Dakota legislators this week introduced SB1296, an anti-transgender bill requiring school districts to create policies regarding transgender students’ use of restrooms and locker rooms. A hearing on the legislation will be held on Monday, February 12 before the House Judiciary Committee. Freedom for All Americans is working with the ACLU of South Dakota and other partners to defeat this discriminatory bill.

COLORADO:

In Colorado on Thursday, the Joint Budget Committee voted to defund the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the Division of Civil Rights, stripping the critical agency of funding beginning July 1. effectively killing the agency’s funding beginning July 1 if that decision is not reversed.

One Colorado wrote this week, “The Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Civil Rights Division has existed for decades, and it reaffirms the fundamentally American idea that all Coloradans have the right to be treated fairly and equally. … block[ing] funding sends a very disturbing message about how much they value protecting the civil rights of all Coloradans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans.” One Colorado is putting public pressure on lawmakers to reauthorize funding for the agency, which is at the center of the current U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. 

ARIZONA:

On February 5 the first-ever bipartisan bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations was introduced in the Arizona House of Representatives! The bill was introduced at an event with the LGBTQ Caucus and ONE Community, a statewide organization working toward LGBTQ equal treatment in Arizona. Cheers to these leaders for their efforts to protect LGTBQ Arizonans from discrimination!

TENNESSEE:


This week a hearing on Tennessee’s HB54, which would create a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the Volunteer State, was scheduled. The bill will be heard by the State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday, February 14.  Tennessee Equality Project is leading the charge to defeat the discriminatory legislation.

CALIFORNIA:

On Monday, February 4, a trial court in California ruled against a lesbian couple, who faced discrimination from a business that sells wedding cakes. While the store sells wedding cakes to non-LGBTQ couples, the owner said that it would not sell to a same-sex couple. The ACLU wrote this week that the judge’s “twisted reasoning ignores the very real harms that occur when people are denied the freedom to participate in public life.”

A similar case is before the U.S. Supreme Court right now in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The California judge is the first known judge in recent years to rule in favor of discrimination in a case like this – these anti-LGBTQ arguments typically lose in court, whether they concern a baker, photographer, florist, or wedding venue. We hope the U.S. Supreme Court sets the record straight this spring in Masterpiece and determines that a business open to the public must be open to all.


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