Since 2006, the State of the States report by Equality Federation has documented the strength and sustainability of state-based advocacy organizations that advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the communities they call home. Over the past ten years, State of the States has faithfully documented our movement’s triumphs and trials as reflected in the capacity of our state-based organizations. This year, we will maintain this spirit, while telling the story of our movement not just in numbers, but through the incredible work of our members. In the posts that follow, we’ll review the highlights from the culmination of recent data we collected from our members in hopes of providing an understanding of the current state-based LGBTQ movement, and look at what lies ahead for the future of the movement.

In Part 1 of State of the States, we looked at the Executive Directors who keep our organizations thriving. In Part 2, we looked how the state-based movement is funded. In Part 3, we focused on the people who are doing the work. For Part 4, we look at how our groups are effectively using strategic partnerships to accomplish priorities, and how they can continue to do so in the year to come.

Partnerships

Equality Federation members clearly understand the importance of developing strategic partnerships to achieve priorities. The results of this year’s State of the States survey show that 90% of our groups work with national LGBTQ organizations. The percentage of members who work with specific nationals can be seen below.
These national partnerships have impacted the hard work our members are doing, resulting in some significant wins in 2016. The top ones listed by our members are:

  • Massachusetts passed a statewide Transgender Anti-Discrimination Bill.
  • Oregon became the third state to pass a ban on conversion therapy.
  • Ohio finally passed Ordinance 1446-13, which updated its code to fully protect the transgender community in Cleveland around restroom use.
  • Washington implemented statewide trans-inclusive healthcare.
  • Minnesota passed a comprehensive gender inclusion policy for St Paul Public Schools.
  • California passed 8 bills in the legislature including bills that mandate data collection and comprehensive sex-ed.
  • Maine passed legislation that significantly overhauled and updated Maine’s family law to address issues such as de facto parentage, medically assisted reproduction, and gestational carrier agreement.

In the coming year, our members listed four top priorities, the success of which will be enhanced by the partners involved:

  • Stop anti-LGBTQ laws/religious liberties legislation/”bathroom” bills
  • Pass local and/or statewide nondiscrimination legislation
  • Protect youth via safe schools and anti-bullying legislation
  • Extend equality to transgender community through healthcare and nondiscrimination laws, specifically removing trans healthcare exclusions

The Federation is proud of the ways we are able to help state groups achieve their priorities, and plan to serve our groups to accomplish many more goals. Whether that is through connecting the states with national groups, or working to create intersectional alliances and partnerships with different organizations within an individual state, we believe working with one another is the best way for everyone to succeed.

Partnering Across Issues

State LGBTQ organizations partnering with national LGBTQ groups is not surprising. But many of our members are starting to collaborate across different issue areas as they work on a broader range of LGBTQ issues from healthcare to immigration reform to police brutality. One such partnership that is Basic Rights Oregon’s membership in the Fair Shot for All coalition in Oregon.

The coalition was formed in 2014 when over twenty Oregon labor unions, community groups, and racial justice organization came together with a clear recognition that our economy is broken and the status quo simply doesn’t work for many of us – women, people of color, LGBTQ communities, immigrants and working families. This coalition is now made up of a broad and diverse membership base; Basic Rights Oregon sits on the steering committee.

In the coalition’s founding year, they identified key policy priorities for the 2015-16 legislative session that began to fix the outdated, broken rules that shape our work, wages and planning for the future. Those five Fair Shot priorities are now the law of the land in Oregon.

From Basic Rights Oregon:
“As a member of the Fair Shot Oregon coalition, we mobilized our base to pass four priority bills in the 2015 legislative session including ending police profiling, banning the box on employment applications asking for previous felony convictions, paid sick leave and retirement security.”

By focusing on an intersectional, multi-issue agenda, this diverse coalition has been able to see real wins in their home state. That didn’t just happen. It was the result of groups like Basic Rights Oregon, labor unions including AFSCME and AFL-CIO, Causa Oregon, and Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon working in partnership with organizations whose membership and priorities look very different from their own.

The Impact

In collaboration with grassroots activists and national advocates, states have racked up huge wins:

  • 20 states and D.C. have employment nondiscrimination laws that protect workers on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • 225 cities, counties, and municipalities have employment nondiscrimination policies protecting LGBTQ people.
  • 19 states and D.C. have a comprehensive safe schools policy protecting LGBTQ students.
  • 17 states and D.C. have expanded hate crimes protections to LGBTQ people.
  • 28 states and D.C. issue new birth certificates to transgender people.

(These figures are from the Movement Advancement Project’s LGBT Equality Maps and are current as of November 22, 2016).

We are making monumental progress at every level of government. We are educating the public — changing hearts and minds in every community across this country. We are finding and creating allies in surprising places.

Over the past ten years, our movement has learned critical lessons about how to win. And we are winning real protections for people who need them.

As campaigns to pass statewide nondiscrimination laws continue across the country, the effort to beat back negative legislation has necessarily ramped up. Equality Federation members had their hands full in 2016, defeating all but four of the more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in statehouses across the country. Those four laws passed but nearly 200 others were defeated due in large part to the efforts of Equality Federation members across the country.

  • Georgia Equality pressured their governor to veto a dangerous bill that would have allowed discrimination against LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
  • PROMO defeated a measure in Missouri that would have asked voters to amend the state constitution to allow discrimination.
  • Equality South Dakota, Tennessee Equality Project and Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition fought off anti-transgender bathroom bills.
  • Freedom Oklahoma defeated all 27 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in their state!
  • Equality Virginia, Fairness West Virginia, Fairness Campaign in Kentucky, and so many other groups also fought off all the bad bills thrown their way.

Not only did we hold our ground; in many places we moved forward.

  • Massachusetts passed a nondiscrimination law protecting transgender people in public accommodations, places like restrooms and restaurants.
  • Vermont became the latest state to pass a law banning the harmful practice of “conversion therapy” for minors.
  • Nevada passed the most progressive birth certificate gender change policy in the nation.

This powerful work—led by state leaders and grassroots activists—has built a strong foundation for future wins. In partnership with Equality Federation and other national partners, state-based organizations are now in the midst of translating local momentum into statewide campaigns. Soon our movement will celebrate huge victories in states that were believed, for far too long, to be unwinnable.

With the backlash of negative bills and the shocking election results, the next several years in our movement could prove just as historic as the last few. And state leaders will be in the center of it all.

Equality Federation has been broadening our partnerships alongside our state groups, and we are continually looking for new ways we can connect with the full range of justice issues that impact our communities. We’d love to hear from you about new partnerships and collaborations you’re involved with or considering. Share those stories with us and we’ll share them with your colleagues.

Methodology
The State of the States survey is distributed in the spring of each year to all current Equality Federation member organizations. The survey is sent by email as part of our member recertification, and responses are collected over several months. The most current data was submitted by 38 organizations. Each year, the survey includes approximately 25 questions, some with multiple responses. Some organizations choose not to complete every question, leaving some answers blank. Equality Federation has 40 members as of November 2016.

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Mel King

Mel King is the Development and Operations Manager for Equality Federation, the national strategic partner to state-based organizations working to win equality in the communities we call home. In this role, he manages the individual giving program and the donor database, as well as operations for the communications department and internal systems. He also serves as the board liaison.

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