By Molly Griffard, Out For Freedom Campaign Strategist, ACLU
It’s official: We’re seeing a pattern of extremes emerge in the first legislative session following the national recognition of marriage equality.
The 2016 legislative session is well underway and the most-ever anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in states across the country. Dozens of bills in half the states threaten the livelihood of LGBT people. In many states, vulnerable transgender young people are singled out for discrimination.
The measures range from allowing someone to be turned away in the name of religion because they’re a same-sex couple, to singling out transgender individuals and forcing them to use separate facilities, or else subjecting them to invasive examinations just to use the bathroom.
We’ll give you the good news first. In the first full month of state legislative sessions, we’re seeing many of these bills defeated.
In the past two weeks alone, the voices of LGBT people and our allies have helped to squash harmful measures in Indiana, Washington, Virginia, to name a few. Our collective voice is louder than ever, and, the majority of the country is with us on our right to marry and to live free from discrimination.
The bad news is that there are plenty more scary measures that may continue to advance in the chambers. Just today, a senate committee in South Dakota passed HB 1008, a bill that would single out transgender students and make them use separate restrooms and locker rooms from everyone else. This just days after a South Dakota Senator said of the bill and transgender young people: “I’m sorry if you’re so twisted you don’t know who you are — a lot of people are — and I’m telling you right now, it’s about protecting the kids.”
South Dakota legislators should learn from their counterparts in Virginia and Washington State. Earlier this week, both states considered similar legislation to South Dakota’s HB 1008. There, legislators listened to their constituents and heard the stories of transgender people who would be impacted by the legislation. And, in both states, bipartisan majorities voted against bills targeting the transgender community.
There should be no debate when it comes to what we know to be true. Attacks on LGBT people are attacks on everyone. Not only does discrimination against LGBT people harm us all socially and fiscally, many of these bills would open the floodgates to discrimination against others.
For example, another bill in Tennessee that would allow counselors to turn patients away if they didn’t agree with their beliefs just passed with a strong majority in committee and may move on to the Senate floor. Not only would this allow counselors to turn LGBT people away, it opens the door to their turning anyone away –a pregnant teen, an unwed couple, a single mom. And more bad measures loom in Georgia, Florida, West Virginia and elsewhere.
Efforts to chip away at our hard-earned freedoms are far from over. In fact, we’re likely to see many more attacks on our right to equal access to housing, employment, and public accommodations. We’re likely to see the increasingly out of touch voices of fear and ignorance speak up even louder to try to defend their turf. If we continue to stand together, though, and make enough noise, we will win.
The cost of not winning is too great for the most vulnerable among us.
As the great Pastor Jean Marrow from Spirit of Peace United Church of Christ in South Dakota said of that state’s targeting of transgender young people, “The same babies we baptize with great hope are the kids we bury because of horrendous discrimination.”