As civil rights organizations work toward passage of these critical federal protections, accelerating progress at the state level is critical. This year, the number of states that obtained the SEI’s highest rating, “Working Toward Innovative Equality,” increased from 13 to 17. These states -- including Colorado -- currently have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the areas of credit and insurance.
This SEI report comes as more than 46 state legislatures have opened their sessions -- and with New York kicking off the year on a tremendous note by passing both the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” The Virginia State Senate has also passed legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And governors in Kansas, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ state employees.
The U.S. House is soon poised to begin considering the Equality Act, a historic bill that would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service. More than 130 major employers, with operations in all 50 states, have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, urging Congress to pass these crucial protections.
“The work of the HRC Foundation and programs like the State Equality Index, along with HRC's efforts day in and day out to advance protections for LGBTQ people at the state and federal level are vital to the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.”HRC and our partners on the ground defeated dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills last year, and worked to pass crucial pro-equality measures that ensure LGBTQ Americans are protected wherever they live. Already, we see the promise of even more protections passing in 2019 -- with action taken in New York, Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.”
Griffin continued, “However, LGBTQ people still face the sobering reality that their rights are determined by which side of a state or city line they call home. As this year’s State Equality Index makes clear, the time has come for us to do away with this patchwork of state laws and to protect all LGBTQ people by passing the federal Equality Act.”
Said Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado: “The State Equality Index highlights protections for LGBTQ Coloradans and identifies the areas where we can improve the quality of life for our community. As a state working toward innovative equality, we are proud to be one of three states to have a third gender option on both drivers licenses and birth certificates. Last year, One Colorado collected over 11,000 petition signatures to ban conversion therapy in Colorado. With our successful efforts to elect pro-equality majorities in both the house and senate, we are confident our bills to ban conversion therapy and to make it easier for transgender people to update their birth certificates will make it to the desk of our first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis.”