Metro Weekly

Half of US states need to achieve ‘basic LGBTQ equality’

D.C. achieved the Human Rights Campaign's highest rating on the annual State Equality index

LGBTQ, states, equality, laws, discrimination
LGBTQ Pride flag — Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

The Human Rights Campaign has released its annual State Equality Index, revealing that half of U.S. states need to achieve “basic equality” for LGBTQ people.

HRC’s index analyzed statewide laws and policies in 2020 that affected LGBTQ people, covering everything from nondiscrimination protections to bans on conversion therapy to religious refusal laws.

In total, 25 states received the lowest rating — “high priority to achieve basic equality” — including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

Two states — Iowa and Virginia — were classed as “solidifying equality,” meaning they have several basic measures of equality, but still have work to do.

Nineteen states, plus the District of Columbia, achieved the highest rating, “working toward innovative equality,” demonstrating a broad range of protections to ensure equality for LGBTQ people.

Alphonso David, president of HRC, congratulated those states that continued to prioritize LGBTQ equality despite the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they “took action to help their constituents weather multiple crises while working to deliver the change that our communities need.”

David also noted that Virginia had become the first Southern state to enact comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, helped by Democrats gaining control of the state legislature after the 2019 elections.

Read MoreVirginia governor signs LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections into law

In addition, David highlighted efforts to ban LGBTQ panic defenses and conversion therapy, as well as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that federal employment discrimination law covers LGBTQ people.

“Despite this progress, and in the midst of multiple crises, anti-equality forces prioritized pushing legislation targeting the LGBTQ community,” David said. “Many of these bills sought to bar transgender student-athletes from participating in sports. With much more important issues to be addressed in our schools, lawmakers chose to target transgender youth to score cheap political points.

“In Idaho, where such a bill passed this year, lawmakers went out of their way to attack an already vulnerable population,” David continued. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to play sports, and lawmakers should be focusing on protecting and educating our children — not teaching them that they or their classmates are less than anyone else.”

Texas, the second most populous state in the country, was marked down for laws permitting discrimination in adoption and foster placement, for its so-called “religious freedom” law which permits anti-LGBTQ discrimination, as well as for banning transgender people from participating in sports according to their gender identity.

The state also restricts inclusion of LGBTQ topics in schools, has a different age of consent for same-sex couples, excludes transgender health care provisions from state Medicare coverage, and has failed to repeal its anti-sodomy law — despite it being ruled unconstitutional in 2003.

Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, told the Houston Chronicle that his state “has a way to go to secure basic equality for LGBTQ+ people.”

“Although 70 percent of Texans believe that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people is wrong, many are not aware that their LGBTQ+ neighbors can be refused housing or denied public accommodation simply because of who we are,” Martinez said.

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