TN Lawmakers Vote to Undermine Protections for Women & LGBTQ People in Effort to Challenge Marriage

HRC condemned a vote by the Tennessee Senate passing HB 1111 — a measure that could undermine certain protections under state law for women and LGBTQ people in a shameful effort to challenge the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision on marriage equality. The bill now heads to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk.

The measure would require that courts and agencies apply a so-called “natural” meaning interpretation of gendered statutory language, including those involving the rights of husbands and wives. This unconstitutional proposal would be in direct conflict with state and federal law that requires gender-specific words be interpreted as gender-inclusive.

“In a shameful haste to undermine marriage equality, the Tennessee State Legislature is opening a Pandora’s box of harmful consequences that could impact more than just the LGBTQ community,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This measure would no doubt result in multiple, expensive legal challenges, forcing the state to divert crucial resources that need to be focused on other truly important issues. Governor Bill Haslam must protect the state from the fallout and veto this bill.”

The measure could have both intended and unintended consequences. For example, a woman may not be able to place her wife’s name on the birth certificate of their child. In court proceedings, a married opposite-sex couple could be entitled to confidential communications, but not a married same-sex couple. The measure could even prohibit surrogacy for same-sex couples.

It could have consequences beyond the LGBTQ community as well. It would impact state constitutional protections for women by prohibiting state courts from reading the term “man” to also include “woman.” The Tennessee law requiring no “man’s” services or property be taken without consent or compensation, for example, could suddenly be interpreted to exclude women from these same protections.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion stating the proposed bill could create conflict with current state laws.

HRC has been working in partnership with the Tennessee Equality Project, ACLU of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition in working to stop this legislation from becoming law.

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Chicago, California Join Growing List of Cities and States Banning Official Travel to NC

HRC and Equality NC hailed the news that Chicago and California are maintaining their bans on taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina. The announcements come after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Senate President Phil Berger, and House Speaker Tim Moore passed a law doubling down on many of the worst aspects of the state’s notorious anti-LGBTQ HB2 law.

“We thank California Governor Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for their leadership — and we commend Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for taking action in the wake of fresh attacks on equality in North Carolina,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “This sham ‘deal,’ passed without a single LGBTQ person at the table, actually doubles down on discrimination against millions of North Carolinians. It’s far past time North Carolina politicians — both Republican and Democrat — stop using LGBTQ people and other communities as political pawns to target for discrimination. In order for North Carolina to move forward, lawmakers must fully repeal HB2 and pass inclusive non-discrimination protections.”

“Cities across the country are seeing HB142 for what it really is — a fake repeal of HB2,” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “The new law continues to make North Carolina the only state in the nation to reserve for itself the exclusive ability to regulate bathroom access and one of only three states to ban cities from passing crucial non-discrimination protections. Cities like Chicago want to ensure that all of their employees are safe when traveling. It is unfortunate that HB142 continues to put LGBTQ people in harm’s way when a simple full repeal of HB2 would have resolved the issue.”

Chicago and California join an ever-growing chorus of cities and states not fooled by North Carolina’s new anti-LGBTQ law, including MinnesotaNew York CityWashington, DCSan FranciscoSeattlePortland, ORAtlantaBaltimoreBurlington, VTLos AngelesOaklandSanta FeCincinnatiSalt Lake CityPalm Springs, CAWest Palm BeachPortland, ME; and Wilton Manors, FL.

HB 142 is not an HB2 repeal, and replaces one discriminatory, anti-transgender, bathroom bill with another. It bans local LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide through 2020, and it substitutes the previous anti-transgender bathroom provisions with a new provision that forbids state agencies, public universities, primary and secondary schools, and cities from adopting policies ensuring transgender people have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

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South Dakota Senate Passes “License to Discriminate” Bill For Taxpayer-Funded Adoption Agencies

Today, HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota slammed a vote by the South Dakota Senate passing Senate Bill (SB) 149 — discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ people and other minorities. SB 149 would enshrine taxpayer-funded discrimination into state law by allowing state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to reject prospective LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents based on the agency’s purported religious beliefs.

“Let’s be clear. This ‘license to discriminate’ proposal is a direct assault on LGBTQ South Dakotans and their families,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Taxpayer money should never be used by state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents based on factors that have nothing to do with good parenting. This measure could have consequences not just for LGBTQ couples, but for single people, divorced people, or even those of a different faith. The South Dakota House of Representatives must reject this atrocious legislation allowing discrimination contrary to the best interests of children in desperate need of loving, caring homes.”

“This bill works against the needs of vulnerable children in the foster care system in South Dakota by denying them access to good families and important services,” said ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Elizabeth A. Skarin. “Our legislators must take a stand for all South Dakotans — and especially vulnerable children — and ensure that discrimination doesn’t get in the way of loving families seeking to provide homes for those who don’t have them.”

SB 149 would allow state-licensed and taxpayer-funded child-placement agencies to disregard the best interest of children, and turn away qualified South Dakotans seeking to care for a child in need — including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a purported religious objection. The measure would even allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their own extended families — a practice often considered to be in the best interest of the child. A qualified, loving LGBTQ grandparent, for example, could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.  It would also allow agencies to refuse to provide appropriate medical and mental health care to LGBTQ children if the agency has a purported moral or religious objection to providing those services. Shockingly, under SB 149, an agency couldn’t lose its license or contract as a result of subjecting a child to abusive practices like so-called conversion therapy if it claimed such “therapy” is compelled by religious belief.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because they are LGBTQ. These young people are already especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care, and SB 149 would only exacerbate the challenges they face.

The attack on fairness and equality in South Dakota is part of an onslaught of bills being pushed in 2017 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking more than 70 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 24 states. For more information, visit http://hrc.im/2017legislature.

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S.D. Lawmakers Advance “License to Discriminate” Bill For Taxpayer-Funded Adoption Agencies

Today, HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota condemned a vote by the South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services Committee advancing discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ people and other minorities. Senate Bill (SB) 149 would enshrine taxpayer-funded discrimination into state law by allowing state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to reject prospective LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents based on the agency’s purported religious beliefs.

“This shameful attack on LGBTQ people could have serious intended and unintended consequences for those who call South Dakota home,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “SB 149 would give state-funded adoption agencies a ‘license to discriminate’ with taxpayer money by refusing to place children in desperate need of loving homes with LGBTQ couples, single people, divorced people, or even those of a different faith. Decisions about prospective parents should be based on the best interest of the child, not on discriminatory factors unrelated to good parenting. The Senate should abandon this reckless proposal.”

“This bill works against the needs of vulnerable children in the foster care system in South Dakota by denying them access to good families and important services,” said ACLU of South Dakota Policy Director Elizabeth A. Skarin. “Our legislators must take a stand for all South Dakotans — and especially vulnerable children — and ensure that discrimination doesn’t get in the way of loving families seeking to provide homes for those who don’t have them.”

SB 149 would allow state-licensed and taxpayer-funded child-placing agencies to disregard the best interest of children, and turn away qualified South Dakotans seeking to care for a child in need — including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a purported religious objection. The measure would even allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their own extended families — a practice often considered to be in the best interest of the child. A qualified, loving LGBTQ grandparent, for example, could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.  It would also allow agencies to refuse to provide appropriate medical and mental health care to LGBTQ children if the agency has a purported moral or religious objection to providing those services — and an agency couldn’t lose its license or contract as a result of subjecting a child to abusive practices like so-called conversion therapy if it claimed such “therapy” is compelled by religious belief.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because they are LGBTQ. These young people are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care, and SB 149 would only exacerbate the challenges they face.

The attack on fairness and equality in South Dakota is part of an onslaught of bills being pushed in 2017 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking more than 70 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 22 states. For more information, visit http://hrc.im/2017legislature.

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NC Must Immediately Repeal HB2 or Lose NCAA Championship Games Through 2022, Warns Sports Association

Today, HRC and Equality NC blasted North Carolina Republican leadership’s reckless refusal to allow a vote to fully repeal HB2 — the deeply discriminatory law that continues to inflict profound damage on the state’s people, reputation, and economy. In a letter sent to state lawmakers today, the North Carolina Sports Association warned that the NCAA will pull all of the state’s championship game bids through 2022 if HB2 is not immediately repealed.

“It’s far past time for a clean repeal of HB2. Unless they act immediately, Senator Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore will be directly responsible for North Carolina losing out on six years of NCAA events and hundreds of millions of dollars,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “Make no mistake, the Republican leadership’s reckless and stubborn refusal to act is forcing the NCAA decision to take action and protect their athletes, employees, and fans. North Carolinians should stand up with Governor Roy Cooper and demand a swift vote to put HB2 in the dustbin of history where it belongs.”

“HB2 has cost North Carolina every single day with businesses and events leaving a state that has written discrimination into law,” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “We are now faced with the risk of losing NCAA championship games through 2022 because Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore will not allow a vote on a clean repeal bill. The economic damage already experienced because of HB2 is only the beginning, and the North Carolina legislature must stop the bleeding by immediately repealing HB2. Every day that passes with HB2 on the books will only cost the state exponentially more.”

In the letter, the North Carolina Sports Association warned lawmakers that the NCAA decision will cost the state at least another half a billion dollars in economic activity. In November 2016, Forbes estimated that the state had already lost hundreds of millions of dollars in business due to HB2.

The NCAA took a clear stand in September of last year against HB2 and moved all neutral-site 2016-2017 championship events out of the state due to the discriminatory law. When announcing that decision, the NCAA cited their commitment to an “inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans.” The NCAA had also previously announced that North Carolina cities no longer qualify to host NCAA events because HB2 ripped away any local LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination laws and uniquely requires anti-transgender discrimination. Standing up for the safety of its employees, players, and fans, the Atlantic Coast Conference followed the NCAA lead by moving championship games out of North Carolina.

The NBA also moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of the state and to New Orleans, Louisiana — a city with explicit LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination protections. That decision came after repeated warnings the league would move the event if the law remained on the books.

In November, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory became the only incumbent governor from either party to lose on election day specifically because he championed and signed HB2 into law. North Carolina polling released by HRC and Equality NC found that HB2 was the number one issue leading to Governor Pat McCrory’s defeat — the only incumbent governor from either party to lose on election day. The HRC and Equality NC survey found that 62 percent of voters opposed HB2, while only 30 percent supported the law. HB2 was also listed as the leading reason to vote against McCrory — with 57 percent citing the bill, 17 points above any other issue.

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