This Week in Nondiscrimination: Huge Advances Across the BoardBy Shane Stahl • March 9, 2018 • 2:11 pm
This week in nondiscrimination, we saw huge advances in our movement’s pursuit of full lived equality. On Wednesday New Hampshire’s House approved a comprehensive transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination bill and put the state on track to become the 19th in the nation to provide statewide protections. In Alaska, a bipartisan vote from a House committee voted advanced statewide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination legislation. And two huge judicial decisions came out of Michigan, where the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a transgender worker who faced discrimination, and Idaho, where federal ruling ordered the state to begin issuing accurate birth certificates to transgender residents. Here, our roundup for the week of March 4, 2018:
An amazing moment in New Hampshire history this week—the first time in nearly a decade that the House has advanced a bill to update our nondiscrimination law to protected #transgender people. This time, we’ll get it done! https://t.co/M7WJq6EBcj #TransBillNH #HB1319 #nhpolitics pic.twitter.com/FAhYnNGSzf
— Freedom NH (@FreedomNH_) March 9, 2018
On March 7, by a vote of 195-129, the New Hampshire House of Representative voted to advance legislation to the state senate that would add protections for transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodations to the state’s already existing civil rights law.
The bill was passed over a two day marathon House session, meant to pass as many bills as possible due to the threat of inclement weather. If the bill makes it to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk, he is expected to add his signature; in late 2017, the governor created a committee specifically tasked with investigating instance of discrimination, including that against transgender people, and just this year he said that he is ready to “move forward” with this legislation.
Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to win comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in the Granite State, helped organize two days of testimony while the bill was being heard before the House Judiciary Committee; over 60 people spoke in favor of the legislation, many of whom were transgender Granite Staters themselves.
Also during the session, two anti-transgender bills were voted down by lawmakers; one would have prevented minors from obtaining gender affirmation surgery, while the second would have prohibited gender affirmation surgery being covered either partially or fully by Medicaid.
Freedom For All Americans has supported Freedom New Hampshire since its inception, and congratulates them on their continuing efforts to protect all Granite Staters from discrimination. Visit their site to learn more.
— LGBTQ Nation (@lgbtqnation) March 9, 2018
A federal court issued a ruling on Monday, March 5, that Idaho must begin offering accurate birth certificates to transgender residents.
Last April, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of two transgender women who wished to change their birth certificates to reflect their names and gender identities; at that time, state policy banned any amendments to birth certificates. The women’s lawyers argued that their clients were being discriminated against because of their gender identity, and invaded their privacy, liberty, and freedom by forcing them to be identified by the wrong name and gender.
In an opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote:
“Plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated that they have suffered irreparable injury and harm that cannot be remedied by ordinary remedies at law. A rule providing an avenue to obtain a birth certificate with a listed sex that aligns with an individual’s gender identity promotes the health, well-being, and safety of transgender people without impacting the rights of others.”
Judge Dale ruled that a new state policy must be place by April 6.
Thank you to all who called, emailed, and testified and who continue to work tirelessly to advance LGBTQ… https://t.co/mCQyX3hPvS
— Alaskans Together (@AKTogether) March 8, 2018
On Tuesday, February 6, the Alaska House State Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would add statewide nondiscrimination protections to existing state law.
A bipartisan vote of 4-2 moved House Bill 184, comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation, onto the House Judiciary Committee. From there, it must pass through the Rules Committee to make it to the floor for a full vote.
Alaskans Together For Equality (ATE), the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy group, has worked tirelessly to collaborate with lawmakers and coalitions on making statewide equality a priority for the legislature.
“Already, Alaska cities are writing these LGBT protections into law at the local level,” said Elias Rojas, ATE board president. “But there are still many Alaskans who live in cities with the reality that they could lose their jobs, their homes, and their financial security simply because of who they are or who they love. HB184 will ensure that Alaskans in every community will be able to work, live, and raise their families without fear of unchecked discrimination.”
Follow the latest on nondiscrimination news in Alaska by clicking here.
#6thCircuit opinion powerfully restates what is already law in the #6thCircuit (that employment discrimination based on gender identity violates #TitleVII) and determines that employers’ religious beliefs do not exempt them from Title VII, from @EQCF https://t.co/u6wOHiltmF
— FreedomforAllUSA (@freedom4allusa) March 7, 2018
March 7 marked a big win against discrimination based on gender identity or expression – and a refutation of anti-LGBTQ opponents’ attempts to use religion as a license to discrimination. A 3-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, voted to reverse a terrible lower court ruling, remanding the case of EEOC and Aimee Stephens v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes.
The case was brought by Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman fired just because she transitioned from male to female. The panel ruled that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) does not grant employers an exemption from Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. In 2004 the 6th Circuit recognized that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex extends to discrimination based on gender identity.
In the 6th Circuit, positive case law had already found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity. However, after losing a motion to dismiss, defendants in the case argued that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the funeral home’s decision to fire Aimee, despite the fact that the business is not affiliated with any religious entity. In an unprecedented and shameful ruling in August 2016, a federal judge agreed with the defendants. However, Wednesday’s ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns that troubling religious exemption.
Read more about litigation related to LGBTQ non-discrimination surging through the courts right now in our Litigation Tracker.