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May 12, 2016
Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi have all made the news recently because of legislation that allows discrimination towards LGBT people. However, so far each state’s legislation has resulted in very different outcomes. North Carolina continues to face significant pressure from businesses, artists, and public figures regarding the HB2 “bathroom” bill. This bill requires transgender people to use the gender that was assigned to them at birth when determining where to use the restroom. HB2 prohibits local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances.
There are over 100 pieces of legislation that discriminate against the LGBT community currently pending in the United States. As a result, the nation is seeing a significant showing of public outcry. Seven other states are specifically targeting restroom usage by transgender people, including states outside the South (such as Illinois and Wisconsin). Many of these bills focus on religious exemptions and recognition of same-sex marriage (in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage the law of the land in all 50 states in 2015).
While laws targeting LGBT people are making the news, there are actually many anti-discrimination laws in place that protect gay and transgender people. The federal government is beginning to recognize gender identity and sexual orientation protections in several areas, including in the Affordable Care Act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now recognizes that sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity in employment discrimination cases.
In several states, laws that explicitly protect gay and transgender individuals in several areas (including employment, housing, and public accommodations) are in place. Many of these anti-discrimination laws simply describe gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes. Others include gender identity within the definition of sexual orientation. An anti-discrimination push focused on bathrooms is happening as well. Washington D.C. now requires all single-occupancy restrooms to be gender-neutral. Several employers and businesses are developing policies that protect gender identity in many ways, including bathroom usage. Recently, Target announced that its employees and customers can “use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”
If you’re curious about laws in your state, the Human Rights Campaign has a state-by-state map of a variety of LGBT protections (including adoption and hate crimes). The National Center for Transgender Equality has a state-by-state breakdown of anti-discrimination protections that include gender identity. The EEOC has information on federal employment discrimination protections.
While LGBT people are not explicitly covered by the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development still says they “may” be protected there as well. While there is not yet a consistent federal anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT people, in 2015 H.R. 3185 was introduced. H.R. 3185 would amend the Civil Rights Act to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity “among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.” If passed, H.R. 3185 would supersede state laws that say the opposite.