Friday, February 05, 2016

Virginia, Like Indiana Still Hasn’t Learned Its Lesson

As detailed in my upcoming February column in VEER Magazine, this year's General Assembly session has seen a raft of anti-gay, anti-transgender bills introduced by Republicans.  As is the norm with Republicans, the misogyny is cloaked as protecting "religious freedom."  Thankfully, Gov. McAuliffe has promised to veto the bills should they make it out of the legislature.  Pro-gay bills were introduced by Democrats and two have actually passed the Virginia Senate with 6 Republicans supporting them.  Sadly, the bills will likely be killed in the Republican controlled House of Delegates.  As a piece in The Advocate argues, Indiana hasn't learned from its religious freedom bill debacle last year.  The same argument applies to Virginia Republicans.  Here are article excerpts:

In one, foul sweeping gesture of rejection, the Indiana legislature this week killed our best chance of securing equal protections for LGBT Hoosiers this year. The bill, SB 344, was a measure that, while flawed in its current incarnation — with amendments advocates were working to insert — would have prohibited discrimination at the state level.  Indiana lawmakers’ unwillingness to move this bill through the legislative process reflects a special kind of stubbornness. They have not learned from last year, when the prospect of a law that would open the door to discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers unleashed backlash that the state is still feeling today.
Last year, the fight played out in plain sight of the entire nation. Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill, which would allow someone to claim that their religion gives them a right to undermine nondiscrimination laws. Prominent allies like Salesforce, the NCAA, Angie’s List, Gen Con, and others spoke up and said that discrimination against LGBT people was not only wrong but bad for business. Some even said they would stop investment in Indiana. 

The national pressure forced lawmakers’ hands into adding a welcomed (though incomplete) “fix” that said the RFRA couldn’t be used to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

The climate was tense but a victory of sorts was won. For the first time, the majority of the country, including the business community, was united in saying that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and we must put a stop to it. Better yet, the country was vocally on our side.

[C]ome the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers were angry they had lost both on the RFRA and marriage equality fronts. Perhaps they thought the country wasn’t watching this time. Whatever the reason, rather than moving forward in the direction of the nation and in line with the majority of their constituents and businesses, they introduced “non-discrimination” bills riddled with carve-outs, . . .

There was renewed hope that perhaps an affirmative non-discrimination bill would at long last prevail. SB 344 passed out of committee hours later. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far.

To the rest of the country, may they heed the lessons learned from Indiana and know that we’re watching and assuming ready position. At the end of the day, all we’re fighting for is a fair playing field, one in which everyone can pursue a life of their choosing free from discrimination.  
 Here in Virginia expect a reprise of Indiana's preference for hate and bigotry rather than equality for all citizens.

No comments: