This Week in Nondiscrimination: New Hampshire One Step Closer to Full Equality, But Bad News in VA and WV

By Shane Stahl • March 2, 2018 • 3:26 pm

This week in nondiscrimination, New Hampshire took one more step toward full lived equality with a bill being passed out of committee to the House for a full floor vote. However, both Virginia and West Virginia saw disappointing news with anti-LGBTQ actions being taken in their respective legislatures, and a rally in Georgia urged lawmakers to reconsider discriminatory adoption legislation. Here, our roundup of stories for the week of February 25:

NEW HAMPSHIRE

On Tuesday, February 27, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee recommended by a 10-8 bipartisan vote that House Bill 1319, known as #TransBillNH, “ought to pass” to the House for a full floor vote.

HB 1319 would add comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodations to the state’s already existing civil rights codes. The passage by the Judiciary Committee adds momentum to the fight to pass the legislation before the year is out.

Freedom New Hampshire is the campaign to pass these transgender-inclusive protections, and Freedom for All Americans is proud to be a leading and founding member of the campaign. Freedom New Hampshire’s campaign manager, Linds Jakows, said in a statement:

“The momentum is undeniable—the Judiciary Committee just voted to move New Hampshire forward by updating our state’s laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. Transgender constituents and their families, businesses, faith leaders, and law enforcement officers from communities across the state made their voices heard, and we are so proud to earn the bipartisan recommendation from the Judiciary Committee.”

The vote in the House is expected to take place on March 7 or 8. Visit the Freedom New Hampshire site for more details.

GEORGIA

On Thursday, a rally was held outside the Georgia statehouse in protest of SB 375, a piece of legislation that would allow adoption agencies, including those funded by taxpayer dollars, to refuse to place a child with a same sex individual or couple by claiming a religious or moral exemption.

Helping lead the rally was actor Daniel Newman of AMC’s The Walking Dead, who has channeled energy against the bill by tweeting and posting on Instagram his strong opposition. The Walking Dead films in Georgia, and Newman has reached out to fellow entertainers and studios asking them to boycott production in the state until the bill is killed.

Several other prominent figures have also called on Georgia lawmakers to prevent the legislation from being passed, including Emmy-winning actor Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Get Out), Oscar-winning writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Army Wives creator Katherine Fugate, and openly gay Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, who called the bill “appalling,” and said his parents’ “love and commitment to raising me helped fuel my success in sports.”

SB 375 has already passed the Senate and has moved to the House for a vote. In 2016, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that would have given businesses and other entities the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people by claiming religious exemptions.

Georgia Unites is the campaign to pass statewide nondiscrimination protections in the Peach State, and to defeat anti-LGBTQ legislation. Visit their site here to learn more about their efforts, and the latest on the issue.

VIRGINIA

On February 23, the Virginia House of Delegates killed an amendment to the 2018 budget bill that would have added comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people to the state’s existing civil rights law.

The proposed amendment failed by a 52-48 vote margin, with all of the chamber’s Republicans and one Democrat opposing it. The Democratic delegate, Mark L. Keam, said in a tweet:

Fellow delegate Danica Roem, the nation’s first ever openly transgender person elected to state office, said, “We all make mistakes. Del. Keam is a good friend and an incredible colleague.”

Earlier in 2018, the Virginia legislature killed 4 bills that would have advanced equal protections for LGBTQ people statewide, including one sponsored by Roem.

WEST VIRGINIA

A  local control referendum introduced in the West Virginia legislature, that could have been used to overturn municipalities’ existing non-discrimination protections, died on Wednesday this week.

House Bill 4158 would have permitted petitions signed by 30% of a city’s previous municipal election turnout to force a public vote on any local ordinance.

Andrew Schneider, the executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said the bill would “empower the fringe” by letting them force a referendum on any city or town ordinance. Two years ago, a bill to block local LGBT non-discrimination laws failed. He says this provision aimed at the same goal.

But, Schneider said it also would make West Virginia a place where local governments are hobbled by constant second-guessing.

“This would turn West Virginia into a California, and it would only make the process of adopting municipal laws that much more arduous,” he stated. Previously, Fairness WV has pushed for local nondiscrimination protections in 11 West Virginia cities.


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