State Legislatures Pass 10 Pro-Equality Bills This Year

by Guest Contributors

HRC is celebrating the passage of 10 pro-equality state bills during the first half of 2018.

Post submitted by Elisabeth Rutledge

HRC is celebrating the passage of 10 pro-equality state bills during the first half of 2018. At the peak of legislative activity this year, 43 state legislatures were in session. Since the beginning of the year, HRC has been tracking more than 112 anti-LGBTQ bills and 185 pro-equality bills. As the November elections approach, only 16 state legislatures remain in session.

Of the 10 pro-equality bills passed by state legislatures, six have already been signed into law and four await gubernatorial action.

Four of the 10 bills are designed to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” which has been proven to pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. Every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association, condemn the practice.

In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy signed SB 13, a bill allowing transgender inmates to be housed according to their identity and ensuring they will be searched by officers matching their gender, have their pronouns respected and have access to clothing and toiletries matching their gender.

Last Friday in Hawaii, Governor David Ige signed SB 270, an anti-conversion therapy bill.

Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed SB 1028, a similar anti-conversion therapy bill.

In April, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed SB 2371, a broad criminal justice reform bill that includes a provision prohibiting the placement of LGBTQ prisoners in solitary confinement solely due to their identity.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed H. 333, a bill requiring a single-user restroom to be identified by a sign that marks the facility as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5722 in March, making it the first anti-conversion therapy bill to become law in 2018.

In New Hampshire, two pro-LGBTQ bills await action by Governor Chris Sununu: HB 587, an anti-conversion therapy bill, and HB 1319, a non-discrimination bill for transgender people. HB 1319 would update the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces to explicitly include protections based on gender identity.

In New Jersey, two bills related to gender markers and gender identity on birth and death certificates were passed and sent to Governor Phil Murphy. S. 478, a birth certificate gender marker update bill, modernizes the process for updating one's birth certificate gender marker by removing the current surgical requirement. S.493, a death certificate gender identity bill, clarifies that the sex of the decedent is to be recorded on their death certificate so as to accurately reflect the decedent’s gender identity. It also creates a process for accurately determining and recording the gender identity of the decedent if conflicting information exists.

Unfortunately, two anti-LGBTQ bills have also been signed into law so far this year. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 1140, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations -- including adoption and foster care agencies -- to turn away qualified Oklahomans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer signed SB 284, which is a license to discriminate with taxpayer funds against prospective LGBTQ foster or adoptive parents, single parents, or other qualified families.

HRC continues to work with partners, allies and advocates across the country to pass pro-equality legislation and defeat anti-LGBTQ bills.