HRC RELEASES SECOND ANNUAL STATE EQUALITY INDEX: The U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling establishing nationwide marriage equality masks a stark and persistent reality: a patchwork of state and local non-discrimination laws continues to leave millions of LGBT Americans - including those who are legally married - without reliable protections from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, according to a report released today by HRC. The annual State Equality Index assesses statewide LGBT-related legislation and policies across five areas: parenting laws and policies; non-discrimination laws and policies; hate crimes laws; youth-related laws and policies; and health and safety laws and policies. On top of the patchwork of federal laws nationwide, opponents of equality in many states are ramping up efforts to sanction discrimination against LGBT people by proposing state-level laws that would undermine existing protections, erode marital rights of legally-joined same-sex couples, target transgender people -- including youth -- and limit the ability of cities and towns to pass their own inclusive laws. While more than 111 million people live in states where LGBT people lack clear state-level protections against discrimination in the workplace, the SEI also points to a few encouraging signs -- particularly in areas related to LGBTQ youth, health, and safety. States like Utah, New York, and Illinois expanded access to equality for LGBT people and their families, while others strengthened existing hate crimes laws, improved access to transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, and protected LGBT youth from harmful “conversion therapy.” The full report, including detailed scorecards for every state, as well as a comprehensive review of 2015 state legislation, is available online: www.hrc.org/sei.
“SHKROOGED”: NEW DOCUMENTS SHOW GREED DRIVING SHKRELI’S MASSIVE PRICE HIKE: Although it didn’t seem possible, Martin Shkreli is actually worse than you thought. Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee released astonishing internal documents revealing the greed behind the former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO’s decision to increase by 5,000 percent the cost of the life-saving drug Daraprim. Shkreli, who resigned from Turing after coming under investigation for securities fraud, is scheduled to appear tomorrow before the House Oversight Committee to face questioning about drug pricing, and has already asserted that he will invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering tough questions. In many ways, the documents released yesterday speak for themselves, providing “a rare, inside look at the motivations and tactics of drug company executives,” said the Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. “They confirm what Americans across the country have experienced firsthand for years -- that many drug companies are lining their pockets at the expense of some of the most vulnerable families in our nation.” HRC continues its call to get to the bottom of whether Turing and Shkreli violated antitrust laws by limiting distribution of a drug that is essential to the lives of medically vulnerable people, including those living with HIV and pregnant women. Thus far, Turing Pharmaceuticals and its chairman and interim CEO, Ron Tilles, have continued to resist calls to restore the original price of the crucial drug. More here: http://bit.ly/1UJPNCx
REASON #462 WHY WE LOVE THE GIRL SCOUTS: After a 9-year-old transgender Girl Scout selling cookies door-to-door was turned away by a bully who said, “nobody wants to buy cookies from a boy in a dress.” She was saddened by the comment “ecause I’m a girl,” the Illinois youngster told BuzzFeed News. But then she got busy. After sharing her story online at the Girl Scouts’ “digital cookie” selling portal, Stormi sold more than 3,000 boxes of cookies. She also inspired others, and says she wants her troop to use the money she’s raised for scouting trips. “At my request, my family will donate boxes [of cookies] to local foster kids like me!” Stormi wrote online. “I have learned that even though people can be mean, I shouldn’t give up!” Kudos to Stormi, and the Girl Scouts of the USA for its support of LGBTQ children. We know you’ll want to read more here: http://wapo.st/1PRMEMS
BYE!: This morning, Rand Paul announced not-so-surprisingly that he is dropping out of the GOP presidential primary. While Rand Paul claimed he was the GOP candidate for younger voters, he didn’t find much success, perhaps in part because he consistently campaigned against LGBT equality, while voters under 40 are overwhelmingly pro-LGBT equality. Among Rand Paul’s greatest anti-LGBT hits on the trail: He supported Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, said he didn’t believe in LGBT rights because being LGBT is about “behavior,” and said that when it comes discrimination, he doesn’t support a federal non-discrimination bill because “if you’re gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you.” Reminder: It’s not just Rand Paul. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have also opposed LGBT non-discrimination bills in Congress. More here: http://www.hrc.org/2016RepublicanFacts/
NON-DISCRIMINATION BILL DEAD IN INDIANA SENATE: Deeply flawed legislation that failed to address the fallout caused to Indiana’s economy by Gov. Pence’s discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) last year, died in the Indiana Senate yesterday. Although it was previously scheduled for a second hearing yesterday, the sponsor of SB 344 withdrew consideration of the bill, effectively killing it. The bill claimed to provide non-discrimination protections, but unacceptably left behind transgender Hoosiers, included dangerously broad religious refusal exemptions, undermined existing protections for race and religion, explicitly permitted taxpayer-funded discrimination in adoption agencies, and would have stripped away the authority of local municipalities to pass fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were prepared to offer multiple amendments to the bill, including one that would have corrected the entire piece of deeply flawed legislation by simply adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories under the state’s current civil rights laws. By failing to address the need for real non-discrimination protections, lawmakers are ignoring the damage caused to Indiana’s economy by last year’s RFRA fight. A recent survey from Visit Indy revealed that Indiana lost at least $60 million in convention-related revenue alone because of the discriminatory law. Businesses are deeply concerned of how the lawmakers’ lack of action will impact their ability to recruit talented employees and sell the state as an attractive place to live. More here: bit.ly/1VLzGEH and abcn.ws/208fvlI
MEANWHILE, DOWN IN KOKOMO: Kokomo could become the next city in Indiana to extend protections to the LGBT community. A Common Council member representing the city has said that the public works and welfare committee is working on a proposal to add protections to the city’s human rights municipal code against harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a strong move by the city, as the Indiana Senate gave every indication that it will fail to pass fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers any time soon (see above). When it comes to finding a place in Indiana that legally protects its LGBT citizens, Kokomo is one place we want to go. Read more: bit.ly/1KXbnOv
MORE OPPOSITION: WV MAYORS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RFRA BILL The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that West Virginia mayors are the latest to speak out against HB 4012, a religious refusal bill. “If a bill that says it will ‘restore’ religious freedom is approved by the West Virginia Legislature, it could lead to lawsuits for cities that have passed nondiscrimination ordinances that include LGBT protections, like Lewisburg did Tuesday morning. Several mayors of cities that have taken steps to be LGBT-inclusive say they are opposed to the bill, titled the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, with one mayor saying legislators promoting the bill need to “get out of the way.” Earlier this week, business groups registered their opposition to the bill, concerned about litigation and potential damage to the economy. More here: http://bit.ly/1PUCa5n
AROUND THE WORLD
TV vs LGBT IN JAMAICA: A Jamaican court is gearing up for a battle over free speech. LGBT advocates argue that a local TV station is violating their rights by refusing to play a program promoting tolerance, while the television station keeps saying yes to censorship. As LGBT people continue to be persecuted and marginalized in Jamaica, the hope is that television programs promoting tolerance could help turn the tide. More here: http://bit.ly/1P6f20l
Harvard Business Review highlights why LGBT-inclusive businesses do business better... IndyStar chronicles people’s reaction to the death of Senate Bill 344… Huffington Post Queer explains why they’ve changed their name… and Irish Examiner exposes the bullying and harassment faced by LGBT inmates in Ireland.