Most US states still won’t grant LGBTQ rights: State Equality Index
The Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation Institute reported in their 5th State Equality Index that most states don’t have laws banning discrimination and preventing legislation against gay rights.
This is despite progress made at state-level, broad public support, and greater momentum of the federal Equality Act.
State Equality Index: State-level monitoring
The State Equality Index is an annual report that looks at statewide laws and policies affecting the LGBTQ people, given that there are no comprehensive civil rights protections at the federal level.
The report noted that 17 states and the District of Columbia got a top rating, an increase of four states from the previous year and more than double from the eight states in 2014, the first time the report was published.
Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel, said: “It’s incredibly important that these states have taken action to make sure LGBTQ people are afforded equal rights under the law in their states, but certainly, it’s concerning that there are still 33 states that are not there.”
The aforementioned 33 states all had lower rankings, with 28 of them in the lowest category, i.e. “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality” or states lacking in basic equality.
These states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and North Carolina.
The other states are: North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
State Equality Index: Different levels of state equality
Fortunately, sixteen states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category or “Working Toward Innovative Equality.”
These include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Meanwhile: four states are in the category, “Solidifying Equality”– Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, and New Hampshire.
Lastly, two states are in the category, “Building Equality”– Utah and Wisconsin.
“The strength of the state-based LGBTQ movement is critical to elevate our representation, visibility and equality across the country,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation Institute.
“As we look to the next legislative session, the State Equality Index should serve as a recognition of how far we have come and how much we have yet to achieve,” Isaacs added.
State Equality Index & anti-LGBT state legislation
The report further noted that a number of state legislation targeting LGBTQ rights since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 allowing same-sex couples the right to marry.
Currently, more than 100 bills that can be considered anti-LGBTQ were introduced across 29 states in 2018, of which two had become laws.
There were also the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015 in Indiana and North Carolina’s bathroom bill of 2016.
“LGBTQ people still face the sobering reality that their rights are determined by which side of a state or city line they call home,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement.
“As this year’s State Equality Index makes clear, the time has come for us to do away with this patchwork of state laws and to protect all LGBTQ people by passing the federal Equality Act,” Griffin said.
Pushing for the Equality Act to protect LGBT people
HRC is presently pushing for an Equality Act to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This legislation would include protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
While previous attempts to pass the law had failed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to prioritize the bill after the Democrats wrested the lower chamber after the recent elections. .
Unfortunately, the Senate is controlled by Republicans and it’s doubtful it would be approved by President Donald Trump.
Oakley said of the proposed Equality Act: “It’s a major piece of civil rights legislation, and it only makes sense it would take work to pass it.”
“That said, it’s had bipartisan support in the past, and we know we have tremendous support from the American public, and we have a lot of support from the business community,” she noted.