What to Expect When You’re Electing: 2020

By Shane Stahl • November 2, 2020 • 9:51 am

It’s no secret—this will be one of the most important elections in our nation’s history. Not only is the highest office in the land up for grabs, but newly elected officials could consider and pass federal and state legislation to protect LGBTQ people in key areas of everyday life including housing, employment, and public spaces. We’ve got to keep pressure on lawmakers so that LGBTQ people will be able to live a life free from discrimination as soon as possible.

FEDERAL

In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, bipartisan legislation that would protect LGBTQ Americans in key areas of everyday life. This was the first time a fully comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill passed out of a chamber of Congress. For over a year, the bill has languished in the Senate, even though supermajorities of Americans from across the political spectrum support such legislation—94% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 68% of Republicans.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 83% of all Americans support federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. The Equality Act has been endorsed by a broad coalition that includes over 275 businesses (Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Verizon among them), 50 trade and professional associations, and 500 advocacy organizations. Additionally, thousands of American faith leaders of all denominations have urged Congress to pass federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. The numbers couldn’t be clearer: Americans are ready to see their LGBTQ neighbors protected from discrimination and treated with dignity and respect.

Additionally, in a landmark victory for equality, the Supreme Court recently ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that employment discrimination against LGBTQ people is sex discrimination and prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Equality Act would codify that decision by listing sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited discrimination under federal law and would clarify that other federal laws barring sex discrimination also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Courts across the country have agreed that LGBTQ people should be protected under existing nondiscrimination laws, and now the highest court in our nation has affirmed that Title VII protects LGBTQ people at work. It’s time for Congress to finish the job and pass the Equality Act. LGBTQ Americans can’t wait any longer for clear and comprehensive equality under the law.

The fact is, election results will undoubtedly affect the work of Freedom for All Americans and many other organizations as well as the likelihood of moving LGBTQ nondiscrimination bills at the federal and state level.

THE STATES

 Over the past four decades, 21 American states, the District of Columbia, and over 300 cities have enacted comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Just this spring, Virginia become the first southern state to prohibit discrimination statewide with passage of the Virginia Values Act.

However, this still means that a majority of U.S. states lack comprehensive, explicit protections for more than 50% of the LGBTQ population, leaving seven million LGBTQ people vulnerable to discrimination under a series of patchwork protections that are unworkable and unfair.

In states including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination bills have been filed each session over the past several years, each with bipartisan support. In fact, in West Virginia, both current gubernatorial candidates have indicated their support for the West Virginia Fairness Act. Michigan might also be moving an LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill before the end of thThe more we are able to continue moving these statewide bills through their respective legislatures, the sooner we will be on the path to fully comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people. The more we are able to continue moving these statewide bills through their respective legislatures, the sooner we will be on the path to fully comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people.

In terms of negative bills, last session saw a flurry of harmful legislation introduced, including attempts to ban transgender youth from receiving best-practice medical care as well as banning transgender youth athletes from participating in sports. The majority of these bills were defeated or abandoned, but one sports ban did manage to reach the Governor’s desk and be signed into law in Idaho.

Major medical groups including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have repeatedly stated that it is in the best interest of transgender youth to provide them with best-practice medical care. Regarding sports, 25 states already have policies in place that allow transgender athletes to compete alongside their non-transgender peers. Additionally, major athletic organizations including the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allow transgender athletes to compete as their authentic selves.

To state the obvious: A transition in legislatures to pro-LGBTQ majorities will help us pump the breaks on these kinds of anti-transgender bills—and other anti-LGBTQ legislation—and grant us even more momentum to pass statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination bills.

WHEN WILL WE KNOW?

 Early voting and absentee voting numbers are through the ROOF this year, and in many states those ballots cannot begin to be counted until after the polls have closed on Election Day. The reality is that several days and possibly even weeks could pass before we know the final outcome.

Here are some key states to watch:

  • Florida and Arizona will likely count their votes quickly; in Florida and Arizona, mail-in ballots must be received by Election Day. Furthermore, both states allow mail-in ballots to be counted weeks before November 3.
  • States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will count ballots received between five to seven days after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked by November 3.
  • The initial counts may not reflect the final result. For example: Arizona, Florida, and Ohio report absentee totals first; when in-person totals are added the results may skew—dramatically in some cases.
  • The substantial increase in absentee and early voting means there will likely be more provisional ballots cast, which take longer to count. A provisional ballot is one a voter fills out when their identity is questioned at their polling place, and set aside to be counted later once identity is verified.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The most important thing: VOTE!

The next: BE SAFE! Wear a mask and be socially distant.

Make a plan for voting and stick to it. If transportation is an issue, both Uber and Lyft are offering 50% off rides on Election Day.

If you notice a problem at your polling location, or your right to vote is being obstructed, call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-687-8683.

Strict voter ID laws mean transgender voters can face discrimination at the polls. If you are kept from voting on Election Day, call or text the Equality Federation’s transgender voter protection hotline at (239) 946-2718, or send a message through outvoters.org.

Click here to see each state’s poll opening and closing times.

Click here to get early voting information, find your polling place, and get answers to any other questions you have about voting.

Remember—stay in line. Your vote must be counted if you are in line before the official posted closing time.  Bring a water bottle, bring your phone charger, bring a seat, bring whatever you need. Heck, order pizza while you’re there!

Use your voice at the ballot box.

And while you’re in line, sign our pledge of support for nationwide nondiscrimination protections—then forward the pledge to five of your friends.


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