Despite significant progress over the last decade, many states are targeting the LGBTQ community with discriminatory legislation, according to a report released today by Equality Federation and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. The report comes just a week after North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory conceded defeat in his re-election bid after signing and championing the notoriously anti-LGBTQ HB2 — becoming the only incumbent governor to lose this fall.
While more than 111 million people live in states where LGBTQ people lack clear state-level protections against discrimination in the workplace, the SEI points to a few encouraging signs — particularly in areas related to LGBTQ youth, health and safety. States like Vermont and New York took steps to protect LGBTQ youth by banning conversion therapy. Massachusetts expanded the state’s non-discrimination law to include gender identity in public accommodations. Hawaii passed a law to make it easier for transgender residents to update their name and gender marker on a birth certificate or driver’s license. Five states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan and Pennsylvania banned transgender exclusions in health care insurance, a sizable increase from 2015.
“Last year our community faced a barrage of attacks on our freedoms, but we are more united and better prepared than ever to continue our momentum toward equality for all,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation Institute. “This report serves as an important tool for advocates to keep pushing forward. We’re not going to stop until all LGBTQ people and their families are able to reach their full potential, free from discrimination, no matter what state they live in.”
The SEI assesses statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies — both positive and negative — in five areas: parenting laws and policies, non-discrimination laws and policies, hate crimes laws, youth-related laws and policies and health and safety laws and policies. Based on that review, the SEI assigns states to one of four distinct categories.
Nine states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”
California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington
These states and the nation’s capital have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the areas of credit, insurance and jury selection. Most allow transgender people to change official documents to reflect their gender identity, and almost all bar private insurers from banning transition-related healthcare. LGBTQ youth are protected by anti-bullying laws, as well as innovative measures in some states that address conversion therapy, inclusive juvenile justice policies, homelessness and sexual health education.
Seven states are in the category “Solidifying Equality”
Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island
These states have non-discrimination protections and are considered high-performing, but have not yet adopted innovative equality measures. Many of these states allow transgender individuals to change gender markers on official documents and more than half do not allow second-parent adoption. These states have relatively robust anti-bullying laws, but bad laws begin to crop up in this category.
Six states are in the category “Building Equality”
Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah and Wisconsin
These states have taken steps toward more robust LGBTQ equality, including passing basic non-discrimination and hate crimes laws. They allow gender markers to be changed on official documents, but have few protections guaranteeing access to transgender health care. Some lack explicit gender identity protections and several lack comprehensive anti-bullying laws. Bad laws are more common, so advocates are working to stop bills that could undermine LGBTQ equality and pass more comprehensive non-discrimination laws.
Twenty-eight states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming
Most of these states, including Arizona, North Carolina, South Dakota and Florida, have many laws that undermine LGBTQ equality, from those that criminalize HIV and sodomy, to measures allowing religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people. None have non-discrimination laws that explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity protections; few have hate crime laws with those protections. LGBTQ advocates largely work to defeat bad bills and pass municipal protections for LGBTQ people.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every state, as well as a comprehensive review of 2016 state legislation, is available online at www.hrc.org/sei.