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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Tennessee Senate Committee Advances Anti-LGBTQ Proposal Promoting Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination

Today, HRC strongly condemned a Tennessee Senate Commerce and Labor Committee vote to advance SB 127 — legislation promoting taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ Tennesseans and their families. The discriminatory proposal would prohibit state agencies and municipalities from requiring businesses, organizations, contractors, and grantees, to not have policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people.

“This bill is a thinly veiled legislative assault on LGBTQ Tennesseans and their families,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Taxpayer funds should never be used to discriminate. This proposal would forbid crucially important LGBTQ non-discrimination protections from being implemented by state and local government agencies. The Tennessee Senate should reject this shameful, discriminatory overreach of power.”

SB 127 states, “A government entity shall not take discriminatory action against a business entity on the basis of the internal policies of the business entity, including, but not limited to, personnel and employee benefit policies that are in compliance with state law.” The measure defines business entities so broadly that it would apply to for-profit entities, non-profit entities (both secular and religious), and in some circumstances, even individuals.   

Unlike 19 other states, Tennessee has no statewide non-discrimination protections in place for LGBTQ people. Under this measure, government agencies who choose to take action to protect LGBTQ people would be barred from doing so.

The discriminatory proposal would have far-reaching implications for the LGBTQ community, as well as any community not explicitly protected under state law. For example, under this proposal:

  • Cities could not refuse to give a grant to an organization operating emergency shelter services if they refuse to serve LGBTQ people.
  • Cities could not refuse to secure a bond to finance a hospital that has a policy of not recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples for visitation or medical decision making.
  • Cities could not choose to contract with a nursing home corporation that has a non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation and gender identity over one that doesn’t.
  • Cities could not refuse to enter into a cooperative agreement with a homeless shelter because they refuse to provide services for the elderly.
  • A state could not refuse to enter into a contract with a counseling center that refuses to treat veterans or youth in crisis.

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Equality NC & HRC to NCGA: Make No-Strings-Attached Repeal of HB2 a Top Priority This Session

Today, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on North Carolina lawmakers to fully repeal the state’s deeply discriminatory HB2 at the beginning of the new legislative session. For more than nine months, HB2 has harmed North Carolina’s people and economy as businesses, major sporting organizations, entertainers, and others have moved events out of the state over the outrageous law. Just this week, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) confirmed that a decision to move the ACC Championship out of the state will be made soon if HB2 is not repealed.

“Every single day, HB2 has put LGBTQ North Carolinians at risk for discrimination and violence. North Carolina voters have sent a clear message by rejecting Pat McCrory, the face of HB2, at the ballot box,” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “Today’s convening of the 2017 session is an opportunity to show that North Carolina is not what is represented by the deeply discriminatory HB2. With HB2 still on the books and the Charlotte Ordinance fully repealed, we will only continue to lose businesses and put LGBTQ North Carolinians in harm’s way. The North Carolina General Assembly has but only one option — a full and complete repeal of HB2”

“North Carolinians have resoundingly rejected the hate and discrimination of HB2, and it’s far past time for their elected representatives to do the same,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Those who stand in the way of a clean vote to fully repeal HB2 are directly responsible for the continued harm this destructive law inflicts on the people, reputation, and economy of the state of North Carolina. HB2 must be repealed, and it must be repealed now.”

During the latest special session, the NC GOP doubled down on discrimination by pulling out of a deal brokered by Governor Cooper for full and total repeal of HB2. At the last minute, GOP leadership in the General Assembly blew up the governor’s deal when they sought to keep hateful, anti-LGBTQ provisions that would have maintained, potentially indefinitely, HB2’s prohibition on cities protecting their own LGBTQ residents from discrimination. These very same commonsense non-discrimination protections exist in more than 100 cities across the country, including Jackson, MS, Louisville, KY, Orlando, FL, and Minneapolis, MN — a city which has had these protections in place since 1975.

Following passage in March of 2016, HB2 triggered a national outcry of opposition and a broad range of voices spoke out over the last 9 months demanding its full and complete repeal. The economic fallout — including more than $600 million in lost business — grew as companies concerned with protecting their consumers and employees moved conventions, trainings, operations, productions, and other events out of state. 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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Trump Administration Removes Apology for Anti-LGBTQ Witch Hunts from State Department Website

Today, HRC released the following statement after it was discovered that the Trump Administration has removed from the State Department website former Secretary of State John Kerry’s apology for the infamous “Lavender Scare” witch hunt in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as other content regarding LGBTQ pride month observances and the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.

“With each passing hour, the Trump administration continues to show the extent of their contempt for the enormous progress made over the past eight years,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Secretary Kerry’s apology to LGBTQ employees and their families who were targeted, harassed, and fired set the right tone for the State Department, even if it couldn’t undo the damage done decades ago. It is outrageous that the new administration would attempt to erase from the record this historic apology for witch hunts that destroyed the lives of innocent Americans. The apology, along with the other important LGBTQ content that has been removed, should immediately be restored, and President Trump should condemn such behavior at all departments and agencies.”

The Trump administration appears to be systematically scrubbing the progress made for LGBTQ people from official websites. On the same day of President Trump’s inauguration, the new administration also removed every mention of LGBTQ people from the White House website and removed the Department of Labor’s crucial report on LGBTQ worker rights.  In the past, Vice President Mike Pence has consistently opposed efforts by the United States to promote LGBTQ equality around the globe.

Secretary Kerry’s apology can be found here via an archive captured by Wayback Machine. The apology on the State Department website was posted here prior to its removal.

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Judge Puts Thousands at Risk by Halting Enforcement of Federal Transgender Healthcare Protections

Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), responded to a federal judge’s decision yesterday to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of federal protections set to go into effect today barring discrimination in healthcare services based on an individual’s gender identity, as well as reproductive health services. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas and several other states, as well as religiously-affiliated medical groups, seeking to overturn a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulation implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which forbids discrimination in health insurance and by health providers accepting federal funds.

“Judge O’Connor’s decision to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing crucial protections for transgender people seeking healthcare services puts thousands of people at risk of marginalization, harassment, and discrimination at a time they are most vulnerable and in need of inclusive, respectful care,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “In addition, limiting access to reproductive healthcare harms millions of Americans including LGBTQ people who rely on reproductive healthcare for a broad range of reasons. While Judge O’Connor’s action is unconscionable, we believe that justice will prevail as courts continue to recognize that discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal, including discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

O’Connor is the same judge who in August issued an injunction blocking the U.S. Department of Justice from enforcing guidance provided to school districts by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice clarifying that transgender students have a right to be treated with dignity and free from discrimination in schools. In March of 2015, he also sought to block Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights for legally married same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in United States v. Windsor (2013) recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples under federal law.

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