Thursday, March 30, 2023

HRC Releases State Equality Index Ratings – And Virginia Fails Miserably

On the heels of yet another failure by the Virginia General Assembly to consider two non-discrimination bills in the House today, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) released its 5th annual State Equality Index (SEI).

And the news isn’t good for queer people living in the Commonweath.

The State Equality Index is a comprehensive report detailing statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families, and assessing how well states are protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Because there are currently no comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBTQ people at the federal level, the rights of millions of LGBTQ people and their families depend on which state they live in. In 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are–including Virginia.

Virginia fails due to the lack non-discrimination legislation, including protections in employment, housing, education, insurance, and credit, among others. The Commonwealth is also lacking in basic LGBTQ parental protections, hate crime laws, and queer youth and health care protections.

This year, the number of states that obtained the SEI’s highest rating, “Working Toward Innovative Equality,” increased from 13 to 17. These states, and Washington D.C., currently have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the areas of credit and insurance.

This SEI report comes as more than 46 state legislatures have opened their sessions — and with New York kicking off the year on a tremendous note by passing both the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” And governors in KansasOhioMichigan and Wisconsin signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ state employees.

Meanwhile Virginia remains in the bottom percentile with 27 other states that have failed to legislate equality such as North Carolina, Alabama, and Texas.

These states, identified by the HRC as a “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality” are most likely to have religious refusal or other anti-LGBTQ laws. Advocates often further LGBTQ equality by focusing on municipal protections for LGBTQ people or opposing negative legislation that targets the LGBTQ community.

HRC’s full State Equality Index report, including detailed scorecards for every state; a comprehensive review of 2018 state legislation; and a preview of the 2019 state legislative session is available online.

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