You've probably seen it in the news, bit by bit. But when you look at it all at once, it's astounding and, frankly, scary. In state after state, in a veritable frenzy of legislation, state lawmakers are filing discriminatory anti-LGBT bills, one after the other. Some are passing. Many more are in process, and even more bills are likely in the works. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT political advocacy group in the U.S., says in a recent report that it is "highly concerned."
HRC breaks these bills down into various categories.1) Bills that "protect religious freedom"
This is the most common proposal seen so far, according to the HRC, and has gotten plenty of media attention. These bills, which take various forms because they are often "vague and light on details" would allow individuals and/or businesses to use religion to refuse to provide secular services to others based on their faith. According to the HRC, such bills would allow businesses owners to cite their faith when refusing to hire or serve LGBT people. What's even more shocking, perhaps, is that this kind of bill could permit business owners to refuse to hire or serve Jews, Muslims, or divorcees - basically, it seems, anyone who the business owner's faith disagrees with. All this under the guise of religious freedom and the First Amendment.
According to HRC's report, over 85 bills have been filed in 26 states. The bills take many forms and harmful to LGBT people, and potentially others, in various ways, not least of which is through legalized discrimination. The following graphic is one quick summary:
3) Bills against adoption by LGBT people
These bills are similar to #2 above, but are focused on adoption services rather than marriage services (see mostly recently: Florida, Michigan). Again, perhaps even more shocking than the anti-LGBT discriminatory potential is that these bills could potentially legalize discrimination by adoption agencies against prospective parents of different faiths and ethnicities as well.4) Anti-transgender bills
These bills seek to limit transgender peoples' access to such basic necessities as public housing, education, and healthcare. These bills often focus on restricting transgender peoples' access to traditionally gender-defined facilities, like bathrooms and locker rooms.5) Conversion Therapy billsDespite progress in some states toward banning gay conversion therapy (see: Iowa, Oregon, Colorado), other states have moved in the complete opposite direction, introducing bills that would protect such conversion therapy practices (see: Oklahoma).6) Bills against local protections
Finally, some state legislatures are considering bills that would nullify local protections for LGBT people. This is particularly significant, since according to HRC, "34 million people nationwide have
Most recently, Republican presidential heavyweight Jeb Bush voiced support
for these bills and two Republican Congressman wrote a widely covered opinion piece
which was a thinly veiled support of such religious freedom bills as well.2) Bills against same-sex marriage
Despite the quick and visible progress towards same-sex marriage in recent years, this second type of bill would limit same-sex marriages in a different way. These bills are actually quite similar to the bills focused on religious protections (see #1 above) but are narrower in scope, only focusing on marriage-related services. Some of these bills, like those in South Carolina
, would prevent state employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. These bills also can prevent same-sex couples from receiving many of the legal benefits of marriage, even if they are legally married.
In summary, this wave of state legislation is incredibly worrisome, for LGBT people and others as well. While the intentions of these lawmakers would limit freedoms and cause significant harm to LGBT people, they could in effect limit freedoms and harm many others as well. Is this a last act of desperation by lawmakers lashing out against the progress of the marriage equality movement? Or is this a full on counter-attack, a resurgence against LGBT equal rights that could take years to successfully defeat? Time will tell. In the meantime, all there is to do is fight the good fight.
more comprehensive non-discrimination protections at the local level than they have from their state law." Such a bill is already law in Arkansas