WHILE CLINTON AND SANDERS DEBATED LAST NIGHT, REPUBLICANS IN SC CLARIFY STANCE ON LGBT EQUALITY: Politico reported how Ted Cruz is deploying a new attack in South Carolina -- accusing Marco Rubio and Donald Trump of using “the talking points of Barack Obama” on marriage equality. Trump struck back late last night in a tweet, “Lying Cruz put out a statement, “Trump & Rubio are w/Obama on gay marriage."Cruz is the worst liar, crazy or very dishonest. Perhaps all 3?” The stage is now set for the Republican debate in Greenville, SC on Saturday. If you missed it, here’s a sample of the kind of anti-LGBT characters Cruz has campaigned with this year. Expect to see more of the same in South Carolina: http://bit.ly/1QbV2x3

CHECK OUT THE LATEST EQUALITY MAGAZINE: HRC’s Equality magazine hits homes this week! The Winter 2016 edition features an interview with Tony Award-winning performer Billy Porter, who is returning to Broadway in the groundbreaking musical Shuffle Along, with the legendary Audra McDonald. We also take a look at the huge hurdles that LGBT asylum seekers face after coming to America, and hear from Nick Offerman, who pens a piece specifically for Equality magazine on Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. Be sure to check it out today.

STATE SNAPSHOT

NOT A DRILL: VILE BILL ATTACKING TRANS CHILDREN ON THE VERGE OF BECOMING LAW IN SOUTH DAKOTA: Yesterday, by a vote of 4 to 2 in the Senate Education Committee, South Dakota moved one step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to pass a law specifically attacking transgender children. H.B. 1008 would prevent trans youth in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, and would put state law in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Education and Title IX non-discrimination protections. Already passed through the House of Representatives, the discriminatory legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) pleaded with the Senate Education Committee to abandon the discriminatory bill prior to yesterday’s vote, saying, “...school counselors have the professional responsibility to ensure that every child is safe, respected, and included in our schools. This bill, if enacted into law, would do just the opposite, creating an unnecessarily hostile environment further marginalizing students who already face stigma and scrutiny. We urge the South Dakota Senate to abandon House Bill 1008 and instead focus on legislation designed to support the achievement and success of every student.” H.B. 1008 would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them into an untenable position of choosing between state and federal law. It would also tie the hands of school administrators and teachers who would no longer have the flexibility they need to find workable solutions in coordination with transgender students and their parents. HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota have repeatedly called on lawmakers to stop the attacks on transgender children. While H.B. 1008 is dangerously close to becoming law, two other anti-LGBT bills have also passed the South Dakota House of Representatives this year and a fourth anti-LGBT bill has been introduced. More here: bit.ly/1TWFm0d and on.msnbc.com/1PQ7lgq

VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS ADVANCE DISCRIMINATORY ANTI-LGBT BILL: Last night, a Virginia House Committee voted to advance HB 773, a discriminatory bill that would allow taxpayer-funded service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people based on their religious beliefs. The hearing came after two anti-LGBT bills (HB 781 and HB 385) were defeated in committee earlier this week. Prior to the vote, HRC’s Legal Director sounded the alarm saying that these bills would only damage the state’s economy and reputation. HB 773 now goes to the full House for a vote. The 10 anti-LGBT bills filed in Virginia this session are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. Learn more here: http://www.hrc.org/2016legislature

MEANWHILE IN WEST VIRGINIA: Yesterday, a shameful anti-LGBT bill (HB 4012), that would put LGBT people -- and West Virginians from all walks of life -- at risk for discrimination, passed the House 72-26. This is one of several anti-LGBT bills introduced this session in the West Virginia Legislature. HB 4012 would allow any person to claim their religious beliefs excuse them from following any state or local law. Not only could the bill allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, the broadly-written bill would go even further, putting all minority communities at risk for discrimination. Cities and Chambers of Commerce across West Virginia, leadership at West Virginia University and local business groups across the state have all spoken out against the bill, saying that it would hurt the state's economy and expose businesses to unnecessary lawsuits. Newspapers like the Charleston Gazette-Mail and Register-Herald have also editorialized against the bill. This is one of over 150 anti-LGBT bills in 31 states that HRC tracking, and among three bills pending in the state legislature that would allow individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people. More here: bit.ly/1QbqBAR

HOMOPHOBIC CLERK RUINS WEDDING IN WEST VIRGINIA: When Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich went to the courthouse, they expected a happy day. Surrounded by family and friends, the couple expected to obtain a marriage license, a beautiful couple photo, and to begin their lives as legally married. That’s not what they got. Instead, they were berated by a homophobic county clerk who told them their relationship was “wrong” and that “God will judge” them, before ultimately giving the couple a license. To add insult to injury, the clerk, Debbie Allen, insists that what she said was not an attack, claiming that she “felt [she] talked nicely to them.” As if the story couldn’t get worse, West Virginia’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act if passed, would allow clerks to legally refuse to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they claim they have a religious objection. More here: bit.ly/1T8LLoo
WASHINGTON STATE SENATE REJECTS ATTEMPT TO REPEAL OF TRANS NON-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS: In case you missed the news, on Wednesday, Washington state’s senate rejected a measure that would have repealed non-discrimination protections for transgender people implemented by the Human Rights Commission. The rule protects transgender people by ensuring they are able to use restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity. Three Republicans joined Democrats in blocking the effort to repeal these important protections. More here: http://bit.ly/1PHst57 and here: http://bit.ly/20Ziijl

ATTN ALL STUDENTS, YOUR PEERS HAVE TO USE THE BATHROOM: One day, Rancho Bernardo High School was just minding its own business, following the law, and allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Then, they became the subject of debate when parent Holly Franz insisted that the school should begin notifying students if there is a trans student using facilities where others may change clothes. Really? As if being a high schooler wasn’t awkward enough, this parent wants the school to announce any time a transgender student changes for gym class. Trustees have not commented on this ridiculous request, and have not changed any of their legally-abiding policies regarding students and their privacy. More here: lat.ms/1mvx3ej

UTAH ONE STEP CLOSER TO LGBT INCLUSIVE HATE CRIMES LAW: By a vote of 5-1 yesterday, a Senate committee approved a proposal by Republican State Sen. Steve Urquhart, that would amend the state’s hate crimes law to make it LGBT inclusive. The current law does not enumerate protected traits and has been difficult to enforce. According to the Associated Press, opponents from the Coalition for the Preservation of Family Values are already ridiculously claiming that the legislation would “criminalize beliefs” and carve out special protections for a group of people. The bill will be considered by the full Senate sometime next week. Utah is one of fifteen states that do not currently have hate crimes laws that protect LGBT people. More here: bit.ly/1TWHWDm

AROUND THE WORLD

INDONESIA CRACKING DOWN ON LGBT EMOJIS: The government of Indonesia is taking censorship to a whole new level. In their latest attempt to undermine LGBT visibility, they’ve demanded that all instant messaging apps remove any LGBT-related stickers, emojis, or emoticons from their platforms. Despite the fact that same-sex relationships are not criminalized in Indonesia, society remains very conservative, and officials in the country have publicly made several anti-LGBT comments in recent weeks. So far the Japanese texting service Line has complied and folks are looking at Whatsapp next. More here: abcn.ws/1SlEinh

READING RAINBOW
Slate discusses the unconstitutionality of anti-transgender bathroom bills; BuzzFeed uncovers the harsh conditions some LGBT refugees are dealing with in Australia; The New York Times thinks about the different words same-sex couples use to refer to their partners/spouses/etc; The Guardian profiles the first openly lesbian member of Congress in Guatemala; TIME looks at the fall of domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage equality… and Advocate breaks down South Dakota’s new anti-trans bill; Pink News makes it clear that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence still can’t give a straight answer on people should be fired for being LGBT.

Have news? Send us your news and tips at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to subscribe to A.M. Equality, and follow @HRC for all the latest news. We’ll be taking a break for President’s Day but will see you on Tuesday. Thanks for reading!


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