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Legislation & Policy

State Policy Working Group

NCLR, along with other national LGBTQ organizations, is part of a State Policy Working Group that addresses proposed state legislation affecting LGBTQ people across the country. The group works to support local advocates in advancing bills to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, healthcare, and other areas, and to allow transgender and nonbinary people to obtain gender marker changes on identity documents.

The group also works to stop the dozens of hostile anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures every year. Among the proposed laws that have been successfully defeated are bills that would permit discrimination against same-sex couples who marry, create broad religious exemptions to existing civil rights protections, allow religiously-affiliated child welfare agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, prohibit transgender people from using restrooms and other facilities based on their gender identity, and deprive transgender youth of access to gender-affirming medical care and participation in school sports based on their gender identity.

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Legislation & Policy

Equality Act

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations (things like restaurants, hotels, and theaters), and jury service. It would also prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in programs receiving federal funding. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in the last Congress in May 2019 with a bipartisan vote of 236 to 173 but was blocked from consideration in the Senate by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The bill was reintroduced by Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) in the 117th Session of the United States Congress on February 18, 2021. A vote is expected in the House shortly, with action following soon after in the Senate.

NCLR has played a leading role in drafting the Equality Act and working for its eventual passage. We have partnered with Black and Pink and others to educate Congress and the public on the Act’s potential to reform the U.S. criminal legal system for LGBTQ people and people of color.

Currently, only 22 states have non-discrimination protections that fully protect LGBTQ individuals. According to the Center for American Progress, more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans have reported facing some form of discrimination within the past year, with the number increasing to 3 in 5 for transgender individuals. This discrimination often causes substantial harm to the psychological and economic wellbeing of the LGBTQ community and creates undue difficulties for many LGBTQ people in accessing medically necessary healthcare – most dramatically for the transgender population and people of color.

The most recent polling from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that more than 80 percent of all Americans (including a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans) support comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that include LGBTQ individuals. FiveThirtyEight has also similarly found that President Biden’s executive order mandating that federal agencies implement the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in nondiscrimination policies was the most popular of his early executive actions, with the support of an overwhelming 83% of Americans.

More than 600 national, state, and local organizations have signed on to urge the swift passage of the Equality Act, in addition to a broad coalition of faith-based groups and 335 major corporations, showing the breadth of support the legislation has maintained since its passage in the House in 2019.

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Legislation & Policy

School Success and Opportunity Act

The School Success and Opportunity Act‚ Assembly Bill 1266 (2013), authored by California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, ensured that transgender students are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. The law requires that school districts provide transgender students with access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-separated activities based on their gender identity. By specifically spelling out those protections, transgender students throughout California can reach their full potential and focus on learning.

All students should have a fair chance to fully participate and succeed in school so that they can graduate with their classmates. Being singled out and treated differently than their peers is detrimental to a transgender student’s psychological, social, and academic well-being and development.

The law went into effect on January 1, 2014.

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Legislation & Policy

The Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act

In response to a number of tragic recent instances of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment against young people, too many of which resulted the growing rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement among LGBTQ youth, as well as the lack of adequate federal statutory protections, NCLR has joined many of our colleagues and The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would expressly prohibit discriminatory treatment towards students on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools. Specifically, SNDA would prohibit express harassment against a student based on his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as discriminatory actions that would exclude that student from participation in his or her academic learning. Similarly, SNDA would provide protection for students who brought claims under SNDA and prohibit any retaliatory actions by the school and its employees as a result of those claims.

Congress proposed the Student Non-Discrimination Act to ensure that all students in elementary and secondary schools across the country have equal access to public education, and equal educational opportunities, in an environment free from discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence. Under the Student Non-Discrimination Act, students would have a meaningful legal recourse and effective remedial option in a manner that is similar to other civil rights claims made under the 14th Amendment and the general welfare provision of Article 1, section 8.

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