SHAMEFUL: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Signs Harmful Anti-LGBTQ Child Welfare Bill

Today, HRC condemned Tennessee Governor Bill Lee for signing HB 836, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations — including taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies — to turn away qualified Tennesseans 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 religious objection. 

“It’s disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Elected officials should protect all of their constituents, not just some. Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year. This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. With many months ahead in the Tennessee legislative session, Tennesseans should make their voices heard — loudly — to ensure that the legislature and Gov. Lee do not continue to target LGBTQ Tennesseans.” 

“As this bill becomes law, Tennessee’s LGBTQ community is worried about the introduction of even more discriminatory bills,” said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. “The Governor and the Legislature must put a stop to this kind of demeaning public policy.”

HB 836 could have a sweeping, harmful impact in child welfare services by enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people, same-sex couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other qualified parents to whom an agency has an objection. The biggest barrier to placing children with families is a lack of qualified prospective parents; having the state give contractors and subcontractors a license to discriminate, thereby limiting the pool of prospective parents for no legitimate reason, is unconscionable and an unacceptable use of taxpayer dollars. 

HRC recently released a report, titled Disregarding the Best Interest of the Child: License to Discriminate In Child Welfare Services, detailing the harms of efforts to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination by child welfare agencies into law. Statistics suggest that an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are interested in adoption, but the LGBTQ community often remains an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care.

Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, as many have been rejected by their families of origin because of their LGBTQ status, and are especially vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment while in foster care. HB 836 will only exacerbate these challenges faced by LGBTQ young people.

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Minnesota House Passes Measure Protecting LGBTQ Youth from Dangerous “Conversion Therapy”

HRC celebrated a vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives to include H.F. 12, legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” in the HHS Omnibus finance bill. The Minnesota Senate will also consider a finance bill. If enacted,  Minnesota would become the 17th state in the U.S. to protect youth from this egregious practice. Colorado recently passed a similar bill through its legislature; it is soon heading to the governor’s desk.

“All children deserve to live authentically and free from fear of this dangerous and discredited practice with potentially life-threatening consequences,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “We thank the Minnesota House of Representatives for taking action on this issue and urge the state Senate to pass this measure and join the growing number of states and municipalities that protect LGBTQ youth from abusive ‘conversion therapy.”

“Thousands of Minnesotans have worked so hard over the last few months to stop the torturous practice known as conversion “therapy” and today, during OutFront’s LGBTQ Lobby Day, the Minnesota House sent a strong message of support for LGBTQ Minnesotans by including the Mental Health Protections Act (H.F. 12) in the Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus bill,” said Monica Meyer, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota. “We could not be more proud of every single LGBTQ and Allied person who made this possible.”

There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.

Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia all have laws protecting youth from this abusive practice. Last month, Puerto Rico’s Governor issued an executive order protecting minors in the commonwealth from the harmful practice. A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections, including at least fifty cities and counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional if state officials fail to act. Last year, national organizations representing millions of licensed medical and mental health care professionals, educators, and child welfare advocates declared their support for legislative protections against conversion therapy.

HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Trevor Project, MassEquality and local advocates in support of these vital protections. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

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HISTORIC: NY Legislature Passes Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act & Ban on Conversion Therapy

HRC celebrated the historic passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in New York as well as legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” GENDA would solidify existing law by explicitly adding gender identity and expression to the New York Human Rights Law. The bill has passed the New York Assembly 11 times, and today marks the first time it has passed both chambers. Both bills will now head to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk to be signed.

Today’s passage of GENDA is the culmination of efforts that reach back for over a decade. In 2016, Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Division of Human Rights to adopt regulations, consistent with state case law interpreting the meaning of ‘sex,’ to make it clear that transgender people are protected from discrimination and harassment under the state’s Human Rights Law. Additionally, the bill adds protections on the basis of gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law. The passage and signing of GENDA will explicitly codify these protections into law once and for all. With the passage of legislation banning conversion therapy, New York joins 14 states and the District of Columbia in protecting LGBTQ youth from this dangerous practice.

For several election cycles,  HRC has worked on the ground in New York to elect pro-equality legislators up and down the ballot, all across the state, leading to a pro-equality majority in both houses of the legislature and today’s historic action in Albany.

“Today’s historic action in New York is the result of years of hard work and it is a vivid illustration of the importance of electing pro-equality lawmakers,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Due to the efforts of countless advocates and leaders, transgender New Yorkers will now be explicitly protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and LGBTQ youth will be protected from the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ This is a monumental day for fairness and equality across the Empire State.”

“With today’s vote, it is now clear that the Empire State will soon take its rightful place among the growing number of states that explicitly protect transgender residents and visitors from discrimination,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “No person should face discrimination because of their gender identity and no young person should be subjected to the abusive practice known as ‘conversion therapy.’ The advancement of both GENDA and protections for LGBTQ youth against ‘conversion therapy’ on the same day sends a powerful message to LGBTQ young people across New York that they are seen, loved and will soon be protected — we thank transgender advocates from across the state for their years of work, Senator Hoylman and Assemblymembers Gottfried and Glick for their ongoing leadership on these critical issues, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, a longtime and strong supporter of equality.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo prohibited so-called “conversion therapy” in New York by executive order in 2016, and the legislation passed today will permanently protect youth from the practice under state law. There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association.

14 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws protecting youth from this abusive practice: Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire.

HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

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