26 US states still deny LGBT people ‘basic equality’

26 US states still have laws that deny LGBT people basic freedoms.

The annual State Equality Index, released by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute, breaks down state-by-state laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families.

States are placed in one of four categories based on their pro- and anti-LGBTQ state laws.

The report found that twenty-six states are in the lowest-rated category, ‘High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality’.

States in this category have many laws that undermine equality, from those that criminalize HIV and sodomy, to measures allowing religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people.
An overwhelming majority do not have non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation or gender identity protections; few have hate crime laws.

The states in the category include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

The SEI also details the onslaught of more than 125 anti-LGBTQ laws introduced across 30 states during the 2017 state legislative season, including legislative proposals to grant sweeping licenses to discriminate; undercut marriage equality; and target the transgender community — including transgender children.

The report comes as more than 40 state legislatures will reconvene by the end of January.

A new 2018 legislative preview report from HRC warns that state legislators, under relentless pressure from opponents of equality, are expected to wage attacks on transgender people – particularly in the critical areas of health care and access to appropriate bathrooms.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott pushed anti-trans laws (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

However, the report points to a few encouraging signs.

Four states, Connecticut, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Nevada, passed new bans on the practice of ‘conversion therapy’, bringing the total number of states with such bans to 10, plus the District of Columbia.

The number of states in the SEI’s highest-rated category, ‘Working Toward Innovative Equality’, increased this year from nine to 13.

The top-ranked states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The states have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the areas of credit and insurance.

Despite these wins, laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination vary widely across the nation – or simply do not exist in many states.

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “If an LGBTQ couple drove from Maine to California today, their legal rights and civil rights protections could change more than 20 times at state borders and city lines. The vast majority of Americans today understand that this crazy quilt of protections — and lack thereof — is wrong, impractical, and unacceptable.

“The time has come for us to do away with this ragged patchwork of state laws that fail to protect LGBTQ people equally by passing the Equality Act once and for all.”

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation Institute, added: “Every year, the State Equality Index gives us an opportunity to share some of the victories and heartbreak from the state-based movement for equality.

“This year it’s more important than ever because our progress is under assault from the Trump administration, Congress, and the courts.

President Donald Trump (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Despite our emboldened opposition, we still have great opportunity for legislative advocacy and policy making on the ground in states where this work has a critical impact for millions of Americans.”

There are no federal protections from discrimination for LGBT people, as Republicans have consistently blocked bills to introduce anti-discrimination laws.

According to new HRC polling data, collected by Hart Research Associates, a strong majority of likely voters nationwide support laws that would prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace (59 percent) and in housing (58 percent) – such as the federal Equality Act, which was reintroduced in Congress earlier this year.

The Equality Act, which was reintroduced to Congress earlier this year, would introduce federal-level protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

At current the issue is only covered by a patchwork of state laws, meaning in more than 30 states it is still legal to fire people for being gay.

The law has amassed the support of nearly 200 Democrats in the House and 43 in the Senate, but Republicans have been reluctant to back the law.

Taylor recentlt announced he would become a co-sponsor.

He said: “Discrimination anywhere is an injustice. I’m proud to support the Equality Act and will work to ensure that all are treated the same under the law.”

The politician, who is the Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s 2nd district, was praised by the Human Rights Campaign.

HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said: “The growing support for the Equality Act by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents proves that LGBTQ equality is not a partisan issue.

“All Americans should have a fair chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live their lives without fear of discrimination.

“We are grateful for Rep. Scott Taylor’s leadership and support for this crucially important legislation that will finally ensure LGBTQ people are protected from unjust discrimination.”