The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) previewed state and local legislative battles in the year ahead, including anti-LGBT bills likely to be considered in at least 27 states. HRC anticipates that, as in 2015, anti-LGBT activists will push for measures that give legal cover to discrimination against LGBT Americans in dozens of states. The analysis also highlights opportunities to advance LGBT equality in 2016.
“2016 will prove a critical year for the fight for LGBT equality in states across the country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The progress our movement has made is threatened by an organized effort to pass discriminatory legislation that seeks to rollback our hard-won rights. We will have much work to do to defend our rights this year, but we will not waver in our fight to expand the map for LGBT equality to every corner of this country.”
Lawmakers in 33 state legislatures will be in session by the end of next week, and 37 state legislatures will be in session before the end of January. Legislatures in 46 states and the District of Columbia are scheduled to convene during the first four months of 2016.
In 2015, more than 115 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in at least 31 states. Because many state legislatures have provisions that allow bills to carry over into 2016 if they were neither enacted nor defeated, many of these bills are still pending. The largest number of anti-LGBT bills introduced in 2015 were aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people. These bills took many different forms across the country. Proposals included legislative attacks that sought to allow individuals, businesses, and government employees to refuse goods and services related to same-sex marriages in Alabama, the Carolinas, Texas, and elsewhere. In Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, and elsewhere, lawmakers proposed allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBT prospective parents. In more than a dozen states, lawmakers introduced sweeping bills aimed at allowing all individuals and businesses to cite religion as a legally permissible reason to discriminate against LGBT people.
Other anti-LGBT bills sought to restrict transgender people from accessing bathrooms, to eliminate the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors, and even to promote the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” While not in session this year, in Texas alone, last year at least 20 vicious anti-equality bills attacking LGBT Texans and their families were introduced in the state’s legislature.
In 2016, HRC expects more than two dozen state legislatures to consider anti-equality measures. These include legislatures in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The full report can be read at www.hrc.org/2016legislature