Letters to the Editor 2/4/16
ILLINOIS RANKS HIGH
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation, has released its second annual national report assessing the status of state legislation affecting LGBT equality across America, including in Illinois.
The State Equality Index (SEI) reveals that, even with historic progress on marriage equality, there are extraordinary state-to-state disparities in LGBT non-discrimination protections, including in the workplace, and efforts continue by equality opponents to pass state-level legislation that would sanction discrimination and undermine even minimal existing protections.
Even with marriage equality the law of the land, the battle for LGBT rights at the state level continues to be a story of successes and setbacks. Though a number of states are expanding access to non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and their families, a majority of states are still struggling to reach even a basic level of equality for LGBT people.
“This year will be one of our most challenging yet, with our opponents in more than two dozen states pushing deeply harmful laws that undermine critical protections in the guise of ‘religious liberty,’” Griffin said. “Equally troubling are disgraceful bills targeting the transgender community – from preventing transgender people from using public facilities, including bathrooms, that accord with their gender identity, to denying them the ability to make gender and name changes on crucial identification documents.”
While more than 111 million people live in states where LGBT people lack clear state-level protections against discrimination in the workplace, the SEI points to a few encouraging signs – particularly in areas related to LGBTQ youth, health and safety. States like Utah, New York and Illinois expanded access to equality for LGBT people and their families, while others strengthened existing hate crimes laws, improved access to transgender-inclusive health care coverage, and protected LGBT youth from harmful “conversion therapy.”
The SEI assesses statewide LGBT-related legislation and policies, good and bad, in five areas: parenting laws and policies; non-discrimination laws; hate crimes laws; youth-related laws and policies; and health and safety laws and policies. Based on that review, the SEI assigns states to one of four distinct categories. Illinois and five other states fall into the highest-performing category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality.” The other states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon and Washington.
These states and the nation’s capital have robust LGBT non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the realm of credit, insurance, and jury selection. Most allow transgender people to change official documents to reflect their gender identity. Almost all bar private insurers from banning transition-related healthcare. LGBT youth are protected by anti-bullying laws, as well as innovative measures in some states that address conversion therapy, inclusive juvenile justice policies, homelessness, and sexual education.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every state, is available online at http://hrc.org/sei.
Chad Griffin, president
Human Rights Campaign