2016 Legislative Preview: 14 Legislatures in Session, 19 More Convene This Week
With the 2016 legislative session underway, 14 state legislatures are already in session.
While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality in 2015, battles remain at the state and local level. There are no clear state laws protecting residents and visitors from anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in a majority of states across the country.
More than 115 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in 2015, many of which have been held over to 2016. At least 27 states have a high likelihood of anti-LGBT legislation in 2016.
The types of legislation vary from targeting the rights of transgender people, to eliminating local non-discrimination protections, to explicitly authorizing anti-LGBT discrimination by individuals, businesses and even taxpayer-funded agencies.
Here’s a snapshot of what legislation to expect from the 33 state legislatures in session this week:
HRC is a proud member of Competitive Arizona, a campaign to amend Arizona’s existing state anti-discrimination laws to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is expected that anti-LGBT legislation, including religious refusal bills, will be introduced in 2016.
In December, supporters of a proposed anti-transgender ballot initiative announced that they failed to submit the signatures necessary to qualify it for the November 2016 ballot. The so-called “Personal Privacy Protection Act” would have prohibited many transgender people from using facilities in government buildings and required the government to monitor bathroom use. However, there is also a so-called “Student Freedom of Association Act” that could still be considered that would explicitly allow student groups to exclude some students--including those who are LGBT--without losing university recognition or funds for doing so.
Anti-LGBT lawmakers in 2015 introduced religious refusal and anti-transgender bills. It is expected that similar destructive legislation, including another religious refusal bill, will be introduced in 2016.
Florida lawmakers in 2015 introduced both pro- and anti-equality bills, including a bill that would have allowed adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBT prospective parents. Anti-equality lawmakers have pre-filed for 2016 a broad religious refusal bill and a so-called “Pastor Protection Act.” HRC is part of Florida Competes, the coalition supporting the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would protect residents and visitors against anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and public services.
Religious refusal bills introduced in 2015 in Georgia’s legislature are still pending in 2016, as is a pro-equality bill to codify protections against anti-LGBT discrimination in state employment. HRC is part of Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, the coalition working to pass the pro-equality bill while defeating the anti-LGBT legislation.
Currently, there is a campaign to amend Idaho’s existing state anti-discrimination laws to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is expected that anti-LGBT legislation, including religious refusal bills, will be introduced in 2016.
Indiana’s legislative session has just begun, and already six anti-LGBT bills have been introduced. Senate Bill 35, introduced by Senator Jim Tomes, would require transgender Hoosiers to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth. For adults, a violation could be punishable with up to one year in jail and $5,000 in fines. Another proposal filed by Senators Michael Young, Phil Boots and Jim Banks is SB 66, a “super-RFRA” that would replace the “Religious Freedom Restoration” Act that legislators passed in 2015 with a state constitutional amendment, after stripping out the exemption for non-discrimination protections.
Last November, Republican lawmakers pre-filed legislation that purports to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but the proposal includes religious carve-outs that would allow some for-profit businesses to refuse LGBT people service, among other problems.
We’re on the ground working with local partners to fight back against anti-LGBT legislation and secure nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers and visitors in state law. HRC, along with the ACLU of Indiana and Lambda Legal, is a founding member of Freedom Indiana.
Tomorrow, Governor Pence will be delivering his 2016 State of the State address. We’ll be watching closely to see what direction he intends to take the state and whether or not he’ll show the leadership needed to pass real non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers.
Pro-equality legislation introduced in 2015, including a bill to protect youth from so-called “conversion therapy,” is still pending in 2016.
Religious refusal bills introduced in 2015 are still pending.
In 2015, the Kentucky legislature introduced a bill targeting the rights of transgender students, as well as LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination proposals. Four bills related to marriage restrictions were introduced in 2015, and while these bills are still up for consideration this year, an additional three bills have been pre-filed. It is very likely that even more anti-LGBT legislation will be considered during the state’s upcoming session.
In Massachusetts, lawmakers will continue to work to pass legislation that would add gender identity protections to existing state public accommodation law that already include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. HRC is part of the Freedom Massachusetts campaign working to pass this critically important legislation. Additionally, a bill to protect LGBTQ youth from so-called “conversion therapy” is still pending.
Michigan lawmakers in 2015 passed a series of bills that authorize anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption services. Anti-equality bills introduced last year -- including a broad religious refusal bill as well as a proposal to eliminate local anti-discrimination protections -- are still pending in 2016. Currently, Freedom Michigan is working to amend Michigan’s existing state anti-discrimination laws to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2015, lawmakers in Mississippi proposed allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBT prospective parents. In 2016, HRC expects to see more anti-LGBT legislation, including the introduction of religious refusal and municipal preemption bills in the state’s legislature.
Missouri lawmakers introduced nine pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in 2015. In 2016, HRC expects to see more anti-LGBT legislation, such as religious refusal and anti-transgender bills, introduced. Also pending will be the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MoNA), which would protect Missouri residents and visitors from anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and business services.
Currently, there is a campaign to amend Nebraska’s existing state anti-discrimination laws to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is expected that anti-LGBT legislation, including religious refusal bills, will be introduced in 2016.
In 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive action extended vitally important non-discrimination protections to transgender New Yorkers and visitors in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. While passing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) remains important to assure the protections extended by the governor are written into permanent law, the bill faces an uphill battle to advance this year. An anti-conversion therapy bill remains pending.
HRC is part of the Ohio Competes campaign advocating for the Fairness Act, a bill introduced in 2015 adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Ohio’s non-discrimination laws. A religious refusal bill was introduced in 2015 and is still pending in the legislature..
HRC is part of the Pennsylvania Competes campaign, a bipartisan campaign working to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. The bill would update the state's non-discrimination laws to explicitly protect LGBT people from discrimination at work, in housing, and in business services.
A bill introduced in 2015 to protect LGBTQ youth from so-called “conversion therapy” is still pending in 2016.
Anti-LGBT bills introduced in 2015 are still pending in 2016, including seven bills related to marriage, a student RFRA, and one piece of legislation specifically targeting the transgender community.
It is expected that anti-LGBT legislation, including religious refusal and anti-transgender bills, will be introduced in 2016.
It is expected that Tennessee lawmakers may consider several pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in 2016, including a so-called “Natural Marriage Defense Act” that would require the state to defend in court any local or state official who refuses to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Also pending this year is a bill that would allow public college and university students to cite religious belief as a legal reason to opt out of providing counseling, social work, or psychology program services.
Virginia lawmakers have announced plans to introduce both pro-equality and anti-LGBT legislation in 2016. Pro-equality efforts will center on a bill to add to state law protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Anti-LGBT lawmakers have pre-filed several bills related to marriage, an anti-transgender bill, and a bill that would further restrict the ability of municipalities to protect their LGBT residents and visitors.
It is expected that anti-LGBT legislation, including anti-transgender bills, will be introduced in 2016. Lawmakers have already held a committee hearing for the 2016 session on AB 469, a bill that would eliminate local school board control and prevent transgender students from using appropriate bathrooms and locker rooms in schools.
Legislative sessions also began in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Washington, D.C., and will soon begin in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington. To learn more about what lays ahead for equality in your backyard, visit HRC’s newest resource, “Preview 2016: Pro-Equality and Anti-LGBT State and Local Legislation.”