SD HOUSE FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON TRANSPHOBIC LEGISLATION: Yesterday, the South Dakota House of Representatives tried and failed to override Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard’s veto of H.B. 1008 -- reckless legislation that attacks the dignity and rights of transgender children in public schools by attempting to prevent them from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. HRC applauded the news and also urged the Senate to reject another bill under consideration that targets transgender children in school athletics, known as H.B. 1112. H.B. 1008 would have further marginalized transgender children and compounded the stigma, harassment, and discrimination they already face. It would have also placed South Dakota school districts into the untenable position of choosing between complying with state or federal law, putting them at risk of losing up to nearly $200 million in federal funding in addition to the cost of inevitable litigation. Two other discriminatory proposals, H.B. 1209 and H.B. 1107, have been tabled in the state. More here: bit.ly/1RLodnY and bit.ly/1njYJTW
DEBATE RECAP: REPUBLICANS FIGHT TO BE THE MOST ANTI-LGBT: At last night's Republican debate, candidates doubled down on their hateful rhetoric in what devolved into a race for who could be the most anti-LGBT. When asked about “gay marriage dissenters” (Fox News’ words, not ours), Governor Kasich, who had previously said that businesses should be open to all, backtracked saying that it was “common sense” for a business to be able to deny services to a same-sex couple for religious reasons. Senator Ted Cruz not only reiterated his support for bills that would allow for religious-based discrimination, but also said he’d allow states to deny qualified, loving same-sex couples the ability to adopt. Donald Trump agreed with Cruz, once again opposing marriage equality and saying that he’d rather adoption be left up to the states. Reminder: the prevailing professional opinion by the nation’s leading child welfare, psychological and children’s health organization is that a parent’s sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be a good parent. Denying LGBT parents only hurts children in need. Furthermore, Americans overwhelmingly disagree with allowing businesses to refuse services to LGBT people for religious reasons. A new poll by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institution involving more than 42,000 interviews in all 50 states found that only 35 percent support such a bill while 59 percent opposed. The Washington Blade gives a full recap: bit.ly/1RMEFo3
GEORGIA GOVERNOR COMES OUT STRONGLY AGAINST PROPOSED FADA: Yesterday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) came out strongly against the state’s proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), also known as H.B. 757, which passed the Senate last week. One of nine anti-LGBT bills introduced in Georgia this legislative session, this deeply harmful bill goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise of one’s religion. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality the bill threatens to create a breakdown of state government services, opening the door to discrimination against same-sex couples, their families, and those who love them. In his strongly-worded statement yesterday, Deal said that he would not approve any legislation that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” and pleaded with faith leaders to not feel threatened by marriage equality. With a chorus of pro-equality Georgians, business leaders, and LGBT civil rights groups publicly opposing FADA, lawmakers are feeling the pressure. Deal has called on lawmakers to make changes to the bill and said that he and House Speaker David Ralston are already having private meetings on how they will address the issue. Earlier this week, HRC joined advocates from Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal to deliver over 75,000 email petitions opposing the FADA to Governor Deal’s office. The petitions were the culmination of months of campaigning to stop legislation that promotes discrimination against LGBT Georgians under the guise of “religious freedom.” More here: on-ajc.com/1LBPrxS
TSA MOVES FORWARD WITH PROBLEMATIC BODY SCANNERS: This week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) finalized its policy on the use of full body scanners in America’s airports, which will still be in place but with a couple new guidelines. While the TSA maintains that full body scanners are crucial to keeping Americans safe, concerns abound that using these scanners without proper precautions can erode the dignity and privacy of some travelers, especially transgender people. In the wake of the final policy announcement, HRC has called on TSA to put in place strong protections for transgender passengers.
GET OVER IT TENNESSEE--LOVE WON: Resembling a toddler’s hissyfit, the Tennessee State House of Representatives voted 73-18 to issue a resolution disagreeing with the so-called “constitutional overreach” of last summer’s Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. Democrats in the Republican-controlled House took to social media to express their displeasure with the ridiculous resolution, and stated that the majority was denying them the chance to speak against the resolution on the House floor. More here: bit.ly/24DYyEX
PA MAYORS COME OUT FOR LGBT PROTECTIONS: Several mayors across Pennsylvania have announced their support for the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. This vital piece of legislation would update the state's non-discrimination laws to explicitly protect LGBT people at the state level from discrimination at work, in housing, and in public accommodations. The coalition is comprised of 20 mayors, including Mayors James F. Kenney from Philadelphia and William Peduto from Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania’s economy is the sixth largest in the country and the 18th largest in the world – with nearly 6 million Pennsylvanians going to work every day to support themselves and their families. Pennsylvania is among the majority of states that lack clear laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and business services. More here: bit.ly/1QuVIZg
DEBATE IN NORTH CAROLINA OVER CHARLOTTE’S ORDINANCE SINKS TO NEW LOW: Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina are continuing to threaten legislative action following Charlotte’s passage of commonsense non-discrimination protections for the city’s LGBT residents and visitors. After Attorney General Cooper’s warning that the state has much more important things to deal with than limiting the access, rights and protections of LGBT North Carolinians, anti-LGBT extremists including Representative Dan Bishop and Senator Buck Newton held a press conference to attack Cooper and vilify transgender Americans. AG Cooper said it best when he told the Charlotte Observer, “This news conference is at best a partisan political sideshow for an attorney general candidate, and worse it’s misleading North Carolinians about how the law actually works.” With Charlotte’s ordinance set to go into effect on April 1, and the General Assembly scheduled to reconvene on April 25, some anti-equality lawmakers are still pushing for a costly and irresponsible special session to address the issue -- at a whopping $42,000 a day -- to try and repeal Charlotte’s ordinance. The session has already been approved by the House, but Governor McCrory and the Senate President need to get on board. Meanwhile, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts responded on Twitter to threats to overturn the ordinance: "Discrimination is never right. Shocked [North Carolina General Assembly] is still considering hurting job growth and tourism in NC. Hope cooler heads will prevail.” More here: bit.ly/1QuuIMU
SEATTLE MAYOR TAKES ACTION TO PROTECT TRANSGENDER RESIDENTS: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has issued an executive order requiring that city staff who work directly with the public -- from library workers to parks and recreation department employees -- receive “culturally responsive” training to guarantee the safety of transgender residents. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Murray, the city’s first openly-gay mayor, announced the order a day after opponents of LGBT civil rights moved to jettison a state Human Rights Commission rule protecting the rights of transgender people to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. "City staff will receive additional resources and training to ensure that members of our transgender and gender-diverse communities are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," Murray said in a statement. Seattle already requires that city buildings and private businesses provide access to single-stall, all-gender restrooms. Read more here: bit.ly/1WZlxUZ
HUNTINGTON, WV DECLARES ITSELF OPEN TO ALL: A city in West Virginia is speaking out on behalf of its LGBT citizens in a big way. Huntington has launched a new campaign called “Open to All” that includes a pledge for businesses to sign stating they will “maintain a welcoming and safe environment for all employees, visitors, customers, vendors and clients regardless of race, religion, ancestry, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” The local Chamber of Commerce has joined the campaign. This comes shortly after the West Virginia Senate voted down a “religious freedom” bill on Wednesday that could have shielded those who discriminate against LGBT people from legal action. More here: bit.ly/1p2JQa9
SCOTTSDALE, AZ ABANDONS LGBT PROTECTIONS: According to the Scottsdale Independent, the Scottsdale City Council is abandoning efforts to pass an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance due to disagreements regarding the size of businesses that should be covered by the law. Emails suggest that Councilwoman Linda Milhaven found Deputy City Manager M. Brent Stockwell’s proposal that businesses with fewer than 15 employees be exempted from the ordinance unacceptable. For several months, the city’s local governing board has been discussing LGBT protections. In 2014, in lieu of passing an ordinance, the Council signed a voluntary Unity Pledge which they encouraged businesses and residents to sign as well. The city currently holds a 65 rating out of a possible 100 on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index. More here: bit.ly/1WVwqr8
AROUND THE WORLD
WORLD BANK ENDS BUSINESS IN ACTIVELY ANTI-LGBT COUNTRIES: At yesterday’s Pride and Prejudice global conference hosted by The Economist, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that his institution would no longer lend money to projects in countries that endanger the lives of their LGBT citizens. The bank specializes in providing loans to infrastructure and poverty-reducing projects in developing countries. This sends a big message to countries that criminalize same-sex relationships, pushing them to decriminalize same-sex relationships or miss out on loans that lead to improvements to their country. Currently, more than 70 countries have these laws on the books. In September, HRC, along with a coalition of other advocacy groups, wrote a letter to the World Bank encouraging them to strengthen their policies toward LGBT people. More here: bit.ly/21aijiS
Advocate sits down with Black Lives Matter leader and Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson; TIME profiles a gay Iranian poet who took refuge in Israel; ThinkProgress looks at the dark, anti-LGBT path Indonesia appears poised to continue on; Michigan Live shares a beautiful story of a judge who has married hundreds of couples, and was finally able to marry her own wife; Americas Quarterly checks out the crackdown on LGBT protests in Peru; StoryCorps meets Dick Titus and Zeek Taylor, an Arkansas couple who kept their relationship a secret for over 30 years before marrying; Los Angeles Times details how boycotts helped keep transphobic legislation out of South Dakota; Vocativ takes a deep dive into the threats facing LGBT refugees in the Netherlands; and the International Business Times highlights the LGBT activists speaking out against censorship in China.