Legislation has been proposed in states across the country addressing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including some proposals that critics say would legalize discrimination. Many of the proposals would protect clergy, businesses and those who decline to employ or serve people based on religious beliefs. Eleven states — Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia and Texas — announced a lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Here’s a look at legislation around the country:
Some Alabama lawmakers in the last session unsuccessfully pushed a measure to prevent the state from refusing to license child care service providers who decline services that conflict with their religious beliefs. Religious organizations contract with the state to provide some childcare services, and opponents of the proposal have argued that the bill could be used to exclude gay and lesbian couples from adopting children or being foster parents. The bills were indefinitely postponed. Another bill that also failed would have done away with marriage licenses signed by probate judges also did not win final approval. The bill was pushed after some probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses to anyone in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively legalizing same-sex marriage.
In Alaska, during the recently ended regular session, bills barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity went nowhere, and bills to allow clergy to refuse to solemnize a marriage without being subject to criminal or civil liability failed to gain traction. Lawmakers are currently in special session. The special session agenda does not include these bills.
Arkansas lawmakers last year approved a revised version of a religious objections measure after the initial version faced widespread criticism that it was anti-LGBT. The Legislature also enacted a law aimed at preventing cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination measures that include sexual orientation or gender identity. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has recommended that schools disregard the Obama administration’s directive regarding which restrooms transgender students can use. A Republican lawmaker has said she is working on legislation for next year’s session in response to the directive.
Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill in February that would have blocked the state from taking any action that may burden a person’s religious freedom unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. A House committee rejected the bill.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a law stating that clergy, churches, religious schools and other religious organizations cannot be required to marry people or allow their facilities to be used for marriage celebrations that violate “a sincerely held religious belief.” The law takes effect July 1.
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the government from imposing penalties on religious schools and organizations that chose not to employ or serve people based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. The proposal would have also protected clergy who declined to perform weddings for gay and lesbian couples.
A bill to prevent insurers and health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients has passed both chambers of the Legislature, and has been sent to Gov. David Ige. The measure prohibits denying, canceling or limiting coverage for services including care related to gender transition, under certain conditions. Several lawmakers also introduced bills to protect the freedom to express religious beliefs by prohibiting the state from taking discriminatory action based on the person’s moral convictions, but the bills were never granted a hearing.
Illinois lawmakers are advancing a bill to let transgender people change the gender marker on their birth certificate without having to undergo a sex-change operation first. The bill is awaiting action by the full House, where it’s expected to pass before proceeding to the Senate.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill last year barring government entities from substantially burdening the religious exercise of individuals, organizations and businesses, unless by the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest. After businesses raised concerns, Pence signed an amended version stating that the law cannot be used to deny services, public accommodations, employment or housing based on race, religion, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.
A bill was introduced in the Republican-majority Iowa House that would have prohibited the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, similar to legislation that was considered in many other states. The proposal was referred to the judiciary committee, where no action was taken. Lawmakers in the Democratic-majority state Senate approved a bill that would have made it a hate crime in Iowa to commit an offense such as assault against a transgender person because of that individual’s gender identity or expression. The bill didn’t advance in the House.
A new law taking effect in July prevents colleges and universities from denying religious student associations the same funding or benefits available to other groups because of requirements that its members follow the association’s religious beliefs, standards or conduct. Bills were also introduced to order public schools and colleges to designate restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities for use by males or females according to students’ gender at birth. But the measures did not get even committee hearings in either chamber.
The Republican-led Senate passed a measure that would have expanded the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act by barring penalties against those who decline to provide “customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial or spiritual goods or services” to people that would infringe on their “right of conscience” or religious freedoms. The bill was never brought up in the Democratic-led House.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order providing state employees and contractors with protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and more, with exemptions for churches and religious organizations. Edwards also rescinded an order former Gov. Bobby Jindal signed that prohibited state agencies from denying licenses and contracts to businesses that take actions because of religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. An effort to enact a new law declaring that pastors and churches don’t have to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or allow them in their facilities failed to win support in the state Senate.
Massachusetts lawmakers are hoping to reach agreement on a bill that would expand a 2011 law banning discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and in housing by also banning discrimination in restaurants, malls and other public accommodations, including restrooms. A legislative committee recently approved language that could allow for legal action against anyone who claims gender identity for an “improper purpose.” The language appears intended at addressing concerns that a sexual predator could falsely claim gender identity to gain access to female restrooms or locker rooms. The Massachusetts Senate approved a version of the bill that doesn’t including the “improper purpose” language. The House has yet to act.
Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson has introduced legislation that could stop transgender students from using bathrooms that don’t match their “biological sex.” The bill would offer accommodations to transgender students with parental consent. But the accommodation can’t include a bathroom, locker room or shower used by students “of the opposite biological sex.” Michigan Board of Education president has told policy makers and educators that LGBT students should be acknowledged and embraced.
A bill introduced in late March would have required employers and public facilities to designate separate restrooms and changing rooms for men and women, and declared that a transgender claim wasn’t enough to override the privacy rights of others. The legislation didn’t pass. Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton has forbidden state employees from nonessential travel to North Carolina after it passed a law limiting protections for LGTB people.
Two federal lawsuits are challenging a new law that prohibits the government from taking “any discriminatory action” against religious organizations that decline to host marriages, employ people or facilitate adoption or foster care based on a religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, sex outside marriage is wrong or that sexual identity is determined by a person’s anatomy at birth. Several states and cities have banned travel to Mississippi. The state Board of Education says it will defy transgender bathroom guidance from the Obama administration.
A Missouri religious objections proposal failed to get the approval of a key legislative committee in a setback for conservatives who hoped to add protections for those who cite their faith in denying services such as flowers or cakes for same-sex weddings. Members of a House committee voted 6-6, with a tie vote not enough to advance the measure.
A bill to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was defeated in the Nebraska Legislature this year. Lawmakers shelved the proposal in the face of a filibuster and adjourned for the year without taking action on it.
Three New Mexico lawmakers in December 2015 introduced a measure “to prevent discriminatory action by a person or a government agency in response to a person’s free exercise of religion.” The proposal died during the 2016 regular session.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in New York in 2011. In October 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered state authorities to develop regulations to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status or gender dysphoria. That followed repeated failed efforts to get the Gender Nondiscrimination Act through the Legislature. The state’s top court has also ruled businesses can’t discriminate against same-sex couples. The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act went into effect in January 2003.
A new law requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate in schools and many public buildings, and the measure excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from statewide antidiscrimination protections. The law was enacted in late March partly to overturn a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. Dueling federal lawsuits over the law have been filed by the federal government and state leaders.
North Dakota lawmakers have defeated measures in each of the past three sessions to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation.
A bill pending in the Ohio House would let churches and pastors refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Under the so-called Pastor Protection Act, no clergy could be required to solemnize a marriage or have their church property be used to host a ceremony that’s against their religious beliefs. The proposal has had several hearings. Two Democrats recently introduced a resolution that urges state employees and officials to refrain from nonessential state travel to North Carolina, following that state’s new bathroom rules.
A new law passed in 2015 states clergy and other religious officials cannot be required to perform marriages or provide marriage counseling, courses or workshops that violate their conscience or religious beliefs. On March 14, gay rights advocates in the state celebrated the failure of 27 bills in the Legislature that they said unfairly discriminated against LGBT people, but a transgender bathroom bill emerged late in the session after the federal directive to public schools. The bill, which would require schools to provide separate restrooms for students who object to sharing them with transgender students, passed the Senate but died in a House committee.
Gov. Tom Wolf in early April signed an executive order barring state contractors and grant recipients from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Legislation that would ban such bias in employment, housing and public services has stalled; a committee chairman says he wants to make sure it wouldn’t violate anybody’s religious liberties or freedom of conscience.
A bill to require transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex is essentially dead. A Senate panel took testimony, mostly from opponents, over two days last month without a vote, and the full committee never took it up. An attempt earlier this month to insert part of that bill into the state budget was ruled out of order. It would have withheld money from local governments that require businesses to let LGBT people use the bathrooms of their choosing. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and state business leaders opposed the ideas as unnecessary. Last week, a senator proposed local legislation requiring that every multi-stall restroom and locker room in his school district be used according to students’ gender at birth. It received initial approval from the county’s two senators, then stalled. Both bills will officially die when the regular legislative session ends next week.
GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard in March vetoed a bill that would have made the state the first in the U.S. to require transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender at birth. Daugaard said the bill risked costly litigation and didn’t address any pressing issue. The lawmaker who sponsored the bill later announced he wouldn’t seek re-election and said his decision had nothing to do with the attention his bill received.
Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation exempting mental health counselors from providing services to clients based on the therapists’ religious beliefs and personal principles, as long as they refer the clients to someone else. The American Counseling Association has said Tennessee is the only state to allow counselors to refuse to treat patients for those reasons. The sponsor of a bill to require students at public grade schools and universities to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender at birth pulled the legislation to see how legal challenges play out in other states.
Republican leaders have made clear they will prioritize restrictions on bathroom rights for transgender persons when lawmakers return in 2017. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the meantime has suggested that Texas is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education dollars rather than comply with the directive from the Obama administration. He has also called on the superintendent of Fort Worth schools to resign over new rules to accommodate transgender students in Texas’ sixth-largest school district. A federal court in Texas is also where 11 states filed its lawsuit against the federal government over the bathroom guidelines.
Utah in 2015 passed an anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal to base employment and housing decisions on sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay-rights advocates had tried for years to pass similar legislation but only succeeded last year when the measure won support of the Utah-based Mormon church and included religions protections.
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a Republican-backed bill stating that clergy and religious organizations cannot be penalized for declining to participate in same-sex marriages.
Legislation concerning sex-specific restrooms was introduced by Republicans in both chambers of Washington’s Legislature but never gained any traction. A bill that would have repealed a recent Washington Human Rights Commission rule allowing transgender people to use locker rooms and bathrooms consistent with their gender identity was voted down by the Republican-led Senate. Another bill on the issue died in committee in the House.
The only bill introduced in the Republican-led Legislature dealing with gays, lesbians and transgender people was a measure to force transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to their gender at birth. GOP leaders never brought the bill up for a vote before the two-year session ended.
The Republican-led House passed a bill modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, stating that government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless by the least restrictive means for a compelling government interest. The bill was amended and then defeated in the Senate.
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