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New report shows alarming lack of LGBTQ protections in dozens of states

A patchwork range of nondiscrimination laws has left LGBTQ people vulnerable across the country.

By Casey Quinlan - January 28, 2021
lgbtq, Human Rights Campaign rally
Human Rights Campaign organized a rally andmarch on Sunday, May 1, 2016 from the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson to the Governor's Mansion to protest HB 1523 which was signed into law in April.

A report released by the Human Rights Campaign this week reveals an uneven patchwork of nondiscrimination protections that has left LGBTQ people across the country at risk.

At least 25 states are bereft of key protections for LGBTQ communities. The states with the lowest equality ratings, according to the Human Rights Campaign, include Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, North Dakota, and Michigan.

Alabama has zero explicit LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in housing and public accommodations. Although Michigan interprets sex discrimination as including LGBTQ people, there are no state laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination outright, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

New York, Oregon, and Illinois fare much better, by contrast, with explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, education, and public accommodations. They are among the 19 states and the District of Columbia described as providing comprehensive “nondiscrimination laws, safer school policies, and health care access for transgender people.”

That’s the highest number of states included in the high-ranking category since the Human Rights Campaign started the state equality reports seven years ago, according to NBC News.

Nondiscrimination protections vary in other states, with little consistency.

Two states, Iowa and Virginia, have basic measures of equality, including nondiscrimination laws, according to the report. But advocates are still focused on passing laws to protect LGBTQ youth and families from harassment.

Four other states, Utah, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, require “work to build upon initial advances toward LGBTQ equality,” the report says, including “the implementation of safer school policies, expanding non-discrimination protections, or protections in healthcare for transgender people.”

The Human Rights Campaign stresses the need for laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people in foster care placement, health insurance, and education, specifically suggesting inclusive sex education courses.

The outlook for LGBTQ equality is improving but the nationwide patchwork of protections, where some transgender Americans have housing protections and others do not, shows the need to pass more uniform nondiscrimination laws, advocates say.

Although the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County last year established that sex-based discrimination against workers includes LGBTQ people, for example, there is still much to be done, said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

“While the Bostock decision will have a major impact on federal employment non-discrimination law and beyond, states must continue to ensure that LGBTQ people’s right to be free from discrimination is treated in the same way they treat discrimination on the basis of other protected characteristics,” David said in a statement leading the report.

Meanwhile, the attack on LGBTQ rights at the state level continues.

At least 185 discriminatory state bills were introduced in 2020, including Idaho’s ban on changing gender markers on birth certificates and its proposed ban on allowing trans people to join the sports team that corresponds with their gender, both of which were later blocked by the courts.

A number of states have also considered legislation that would punish health professionals for providing care to transgender youth.

In addition to the passage of more explicit state laws protecting LGBTQ rights, the Human Rights Campaign and other groups have advocated for the passage of the Equality Act, a federal bill that would provide clear and expansive nondiscrimination protections than those secured by the Bostock decision.

President Joe Biden has said the Equality Act is a top legislative priority for his first 100 days in office.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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