2015 LGBT Progress Update: We Are Winning!

April 17, 2015

Thursday April 16, 2015

So far 2015 has been quite a year. We haven't seen a state-by-state attack on our rights like this since the marriage bans of 2004. There's good news though: we are winning. Despite a brutal midterm election last fall and an onslaught of negative legislation so far this year, our message has never been clearer: discrimination against LGBT people is no longer acceptable. How do we know this?

A nationwide outcry and backlash against Indiana's passage of its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was so strong that governors in both Indiana and Arkansas ended up having to "fix" their bills. Governor Pence signed Indiana's RFRA bill into law but was forced to add an amendment prohibiting certain types of discrimination. Arkansas Governor Hutchinson was handed a bill much like Indiana's, but he too scrapped the original bill and replaced it with a version barring certain types of discrimination.

Even though these laws were "fixed", they are still troubling in that they leave the door open for a pharmacist to deny birth control, or could be used to support a challenge to child welfare protections, for example. Despite these two losses, many more states won their battles. Georgia Equality and its partners defeated their state's RFRA. Similarly, statewide organizations and their partners in Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming also defeated their RFRAs this session.

Also on the plus side, just last month, Utah became the first state to pass a sexual orientation/gender identity nondiscrimination bill into law since 2009, ending a nearly 6 year dry spell. Missouri could be hot on Utah's heels with a nondiscrimination bill making its way through that state's legislature.

So where does that leave us? North Carolina just defeated their RFRA and Louisiana's bill is in some ways worse than Indiana's in that it is more focused and deals specifically with religious beliefs in relation to same-sex marriage. A handful of other states including Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas are fighting marriage refusal bills. Arkansas and Oklahoma defeated theirs.

We are not only winning on the statewide level but on the local level as well. Even though we lost a repeal battle in Springfield, Missouri, it was only by a slim margin. Elsewhere, Laramie, Wyoming is poised to be the first municipality in the Equality State with a local nondiscrimination ordinance. So, in short, we take our losses in stride. For every loss there seem to be multiple victories.

The Federation is proud to support the efforts of our members on the ground, working to win equality in the communities we call home. Keep up the great work everyone!

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