#AM_Equality Tip Sheet: February 18, 2016

HRC staff

SOUTH DAKOTA CONTINUES ATTACKS ON TRANS KIDS, GOVERNOR MUST VETO HB 1008: Yesterday, the Argus Leader broke the news that South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has reversed course and will now meet with transgender students before making his decision on whether to sign HB 1008 – outrageous legislation that would prevent trans students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, and would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX. HB 1008 passed the South Dakota Senate by a 20-15 vote earlier this week. But despite Daugaard’s decision to meet with trans students -- a meeting that probably should have been prioritized days ago -- the state Legislature has continued their attacks. Yesterday, the House State Affairs Committee voted 8-4 to advance HB 1209, a different bill that focuses on birth certificates in a veiled attempt to block transgender children from participating in sports programs and other activities in a manner that’s consistent with their gender identity. The bill would have a broad array of unintended consequences for all South Dakotans because it would require any public body to accept as valid all information on a person's birth certificate -- even if that information is outdated and incorrect. The far-reaching consequences of HB 1209 demonstrate just how far the South Dakota Legislature is willing to go to demean and disrespect trans people. HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota have repeatedly called on lawmakers to stop the attacks on trans children. More here:bit.ly/1WtFB1C and argusne.ws/1oMyd74

NEW POLLING SHOWS STRONG SUPPORT FOR THE EQUALITY ACT IN ALL 50 STATES: The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute has updated its landmark American Values Atlas survey, a poll that includes more than 42,000 interviews in all 50 states. The results show strong, across the board support for a bill like the Equality Act. Support for a comprehensive non-discrimination bill like the Equality Act exceeds 50 percent in all 50 states, including the deep south. More here: bit.ly/1PIbdik

  • MAJORITY OPPOSE RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS: The survey also finds that roughly six in ten (59 percent) Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse service to gay and lesbian people if doing so conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs -- consistent with HRC’s own polling on this issue released last fall.

SAME OLD SONG FROM TED CRUZ IN SOUTH CAROLINA TOWN HALL In the CNN town hall last night, viewers were forced to endure a few bars from Ted Cruz, who it turns out is even worse at singing than he is at senator-ing. In any case, Cruz continued his same old song on LGBT issues. Cruz has previously declared his support for a bill like the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act,” that would put LGBT people at risk for discrimination. He continued that argument last night, saying “We are seeing an assault on religious liberties. What we need is a president who will unequivocally defend those values,” said Cruz. Next up tonight on CNN: Trump, Bush and Kasich. More on Cruz’s singing here: bit.ly/1TsscJ8



SYMBOLIC ANTI-MARRIAGE RESOLUTION ADVANCES IN TENNESSEE: Yesterday, HRC, the Tennessee Equality Project and one of the three Tennessee plaintiff couples in the Supreme Court case that brought nationwide marriage equality blasted Tennessee lawmakers on the House Civil Justice Committee for advancing HJR 529, a resolution that allows lawmakers to express their animosity toward the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Following the rejection of the “Natural Marriage Defense Act” last month, an extreme measure that sought to eliminate marriage equality in the state, elected officials have sadly doubled down on their anti-LGBT agenda by advancing discriminatory legislation that serves absolutely no legitimate purpose. More here: bit.ly/1OgzuYB

ANTI-LGBT FADA BILL ADVANCES OUT OF GEORGIA COMMITTEE: A bill in the Georgia House that would allow for taxpayer funded discrimination against LGBT Georgians and single parents advanced out of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee on a partisan 15-3 vote Tuesday. SB 284, the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia,” goes beyond protecting the right of free exercise, and would instead prohibit action against a person or organization “who believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage.” State-contracted counselors could refuse to provide services to single mothers; taxpayer funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples; and state-funded homeless shelters could turn away LGBT people and their families. SB 284 was combined in committee to include language from a pending House bill, the so-called “Pastor Protection Act,” an unnecessary bill motivated by anti-LGBT animus. More here: bit.ly/1KqDSt6

TEXAS REPUBLICANS ALREADY PREPARING ANTI-LGBT ATTACKS FOR NEXT YEAR: Even though the Texas Legislature is not in session this year, the Texas State Senate Affairs Committee met yesterday morning at the direction of Lt. Gov. Patrick to discuss ways in which the state can shamefully fight back against local LGBT non-discrimination ordinances and promote discrimination against LGBT Texans and their families in the name of “religious freedom.” Needless to say, we’re expecting a Texas-sized fight on our hands against anti-LGBT zealots next session over the fundamental American values of fairness and equality. Reminder: more than 20 vicious anti-equality bills were introduced in Texas last year. More here: bit.ly/1OhUU7I and bit.ly/1WtFmUh

NO VOTE ON LGBT PROTECTIONS IN KENTUCKY THIS YEAR: Despite the efforts of LGBT advocates and pro-equality lawmakers in Kentucky, a bill that would add statewide protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s Civil Rights Act is unlikely to move forward this legislative session. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, was heard yesterday by the House Judiciary Committee, but was not brought forward for a vote. Marzian explained, "I don't want to bring a bill forward and get defeated, because I don't think that helps us or moves us in a positive direction.” Marzian does expect that the bill will be voted on in the next two to three years when a more progressive legislature is elected. The House chamber is controlled by Democrats but the majority do not always support LGBT equality. As the WFPL reports, “In advance of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, 37 out of 65 Democrats signed a brief advising the court to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage, including in Kentucky.” Yesterday, more than 100 supporters of the bill attended a rally at the state Capitol, held by the Fairness Coalition. Eight cities in Kentucky already have laws protecting the LGBT community: Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Midway, Morehead and Vicco. More here: bit.ly/1SzwYEs and bit.ly/1VpFxzF

NEBRASKA CONSIDERING BILL THAT WILL ALLOW ANTI-LGBT DISCRIMINATION BY CHILD WELFARE GROUPS: Pro-equality advocates have come out against a new bill in Nebraska that would allow faith-based child welfare organizations to refuse to place children in need of loving homes with LGBT families. Sponsored by Republican State Senator Mark Kolterman, LB 975 would prohibit the state from refusing to fund groups that seek this religious exemption. While the state's director of the Division of Children and Family Services unfortunately testified in favor of the bill, Sen. Adam Morfeld made it clear that the bill could allow for broad discrimination, and Nebraskan Nickolas Kramer shared the heartbreaking challenges he and his husband had to overcome to adopt their four year old daughter. Stay tuned, the committee has yet to take action on the bill. More here: bit.ly/1R9QSTo and bit.ly/1SUfOSr

DESPITE INCREASE IN SUICIDES, CHURCH ASKS UT LEGISLATURE TO CONTINUE LEGAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LGBT MEMBERS: The Church of Latter-day Saints is calling on Utah lawmakers to consider religious rights when debating hate crime legislation, calling the relationship between religion and LGBT rights a “careful balance.” This is the same church that announced last year that they will excommunicate congregants in same-sex marriages and refuse to baptize any children of same-sex parents. Teen Vogue has reported that, since this announcement, at least 32 LGBTQ Mormons between the ages of 14 and 20 have committed suicide. Perhaps the Church and Utah lawmakers should look at these facts as a sign that this balance is not being carefully navigated, and that the Church and state lawmakers should look for ways to protect LGBTQ youth. More here: bit.ly/1oMyPcJ and bit.ly/1VpGqIB

SCHOOL FOLLOWS LAW, SCHOOL DISTRICT CONSIDERS SAME: Yesterday, a school board in Sarasota, FL met to discuss allowing transgender students to use the bathroom based on their gender identity. This discussion stems from a Pine View School transgender student whose request to use the boy’s bathroom was first denied, but then allowed by the school’s principal. Pine View School changed its initial denial after reviewing the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance on transgender students, choosing to abide by the law rather than personal prejudice. Now, the same policy could potentially spread to the rest of the Sarasota County school district, protecting all of the district’s transgender students. Similar discussions are happening in the neighboring Hillsborough County School District. More here: bit.ly/1OesT0I and bit.ly/248YKeW

KANSAS STATE REP UNABLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN GENDER AND SEXUALITY: Normally, we love breaking down gender binaries, but one Kansas lawmaker is truly clueless, suggesting that gay people represent a “third sex.” Someone explain to state Rep. Dick Jones that gender and sexuality are two totally different things, please. His comments came after a peculiar tirade against the Supreme Court, where he suggested that the Obergefell decision “established a third sex… so there’s male and female and gay.” Pretty sad that an elected official doesn’t realize that people (even him!) have both a gender and sexuality. More here: bit.ly/1ROf4gl


IGA, JAPAN RECOGNIZES SAME-SEX PARTNERSHIPS: The march for marriage equality has taken a running leap after the municipal government of Iga confirmed they will issue legal confirmation of same-sex partnerships in April. Iga joins the Shibuya and Setagaya wards of Tokyo, becoming the third municipal government to recognize same-sex partnerships. The decision will allow same-sex couples in the municipality to have equal rights in hospitals, government-run apartments and employment. Two more municipalities, Takarazuka and Hyogo prefecture, will begin issuing similar licenses in summer 2017. More here: bit.ly/1KqDMC0

UGANDANS VOTE WHILE LGBT PEOPLE CONTINUE TO SUFFER: Ahead of Uganda’s presidential election today, LGBT Ugandans continue to fight for full equality despite numerous barriers. A recent poll found that 92 percent of Ugandans think “homosexuality is inconsistent with Ugandan culture and religion,” and the Uganda Registration Bureau, which registers all civil society organizations in the country, has taken advantage of a new rule that prohibits organizations that work against the “dignity of the people of Uganda.” It recently refused the application from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Nicholas Opiyo, founder and leader of the human rights organization Chapter Four Uganda, penned a powerful op-ed in The New York Times on the the anti-LGBT rhetoric being spewed by many Ugandans, and the role that American religious groups and exporters of hate like Scott Lively have played in the oppression of LGBT Ugandans. Opiyo also shares a positive take away, writing, “Despite the draconian political climate and new legal threats, however, there are also some ripples of hope, dignity and survival. The rights of LGBT persons are now at least a subject of public discussion, no longer just whispers. The debate occupies mainstream political discourse and conversations throughout Uganda. However hostile the public, it at least is acknowledging that we have Ugandans with different sexual orientations in our midst.” Read the full op-ed here: nyti.ms/1Ks70QW

BULGARIAN MAYOR PROTESTS MARRIAGE EQUALITY: The Mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria is making a big stink about marriage equality by officiating the wedding of a opposite-sex couple in support of the anti-LGBT “Society and Values Association.” This is a part of the group’s “Week of Marriage,” a week-long celebration promoting marriage as “one man and one woman” (AKA, the worst party ever). The terrifying organization promotes so-called “conversion therapy,” links LGBT people to pedophilia and believes that LGBT people shouldn’t be allowed to publicly assemble. More here: bit.ly/1VnZlDz


Upworthy talks about why a “first kiss” wedding photo of a same-sex military couple went viral… ThinkProgress breaks down the ridiculous “religious liberty” argument against LGBT protections… Fox 10 Phoenix shares a heartwarming story of students supporting their LGBT peers against anti-LGBT protesters… ABC 10 breaks down how a school changed its clothing policy to allow for LGBTQ pride… Gay News Network reports that Bailik College is the first Australian school to support marriage equality and…. the Georgia Voice highlights an LGBT newcomer who won their House District race.

Have news? Send us your news and tips at AMEquality@hrc.org. Click here to subscribe to A.M. Equality, and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!

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