LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws have Made Progress, but a Backlash Threatens LGBT and Gender Identity Rights, by Reid Turner
In mid February of 2017, city leaders in Jacksonville passed a law that made discriminating against persons based on sexual identity or sexual preference punishable by a $500 fine. The legislation applies to most private businesses, although it provides an exception for small business and religious organizations. However, at the statewide level, this type of legislation is fairly rare. According to the ACLU, only twenty-one states have some sort of protection against discrimination against the gay community, and even fewer protect gender identity.
Additionally, since the Supreme Court allowed gay marriage in Obergefell, a large number of states have pushed back. The proposed laws range from allowing persons or businesses to deny service to these communities to banning transgender persons to use the restrooms that match their preferred genders. Of particular note is the anti-LGBT law HB 2 that passed in North Carolina in 2016. The statute intentionally makes use of the word “biological sex” when referring to what gender is allowed in which public restrooms, denying transgender persons that ability to use the restroom of their preference. Even more notably, it blocks local governments form being able to pass their own legislation to protect the LGBT community.
In Mississippi, House Bill 1523 was passed in 2016. The statute begins using the following language:
“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and
(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
The law is designed to protect those with “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” and allow them to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, including allowing state employees to deny marriage certificates to those they personally object to being able to marry. And while many of these types of bills have been proposed and not passed in 2016, there are likely more to come.
It is clear that there will be continued fights in these areas, especially depending on the state. In the case of the HB 2, protests have come in many forms, including a February 12 march in Raleigh protesting both the bill and of the Trump presidency. In 2016, artists such as Bruce Springsteen cancelled concerts in North Carolina to protest the bill. It is important to remain vigilant and continue to move forward for the sake of progress; much like the city leaders in Jacksonville have done.