The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute released their Ninth annual State Equality Index (SEI). The SEI is a comprehensive state-by-state report that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ+ people and their families.
North Carolina falls into the category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” States in this have advocates focusing on raising support for basic LGBTQ equality, such as non-discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. These states 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.
In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10 percent of these efforts succeeded. Twenty-four pro-equality bills were also passed into law: these range in topic from making it easier to update drivers licenses and birth and death certificates with correct names and gender markers; to banning insurance exclusions for healthcare for transgender individuals; to expanding non-discrimination protections in housing, employment and education. All ensure that LGBTQ people are able to take one step closer to full legal and lived equality.
Last year also marked the passage of the most anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender legislation in recent history. During the final hours of their legislative session, Alabama lawmakers passed a sweeping package of discriminatory bills that contained a number of anti-LGBTQ measures, the worst of which criminalized parents for providing gender-affirming care for their transgender children, barred transgender children from using bathrooms and locker rooms that aligned with their gender identity, and censored classroom discussions on LGBTQ issues.
“The 2022 State Equality Index outlines how states across the country fought back against yet another record year of anti-LGBTQ+ legislative attacks. In the face of these attacks, legislators and advocates fought back, with fewer than 10% of the anti-LGBTQ+ discriminatory bills introduced passing into law,” said JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “These bills are terrible public policy, and we are also deeply cognizant of how every harmful anti-LGBTQ+ bill that is signed into law has a devastating impact on the lives and well-being of LGBTQ+ people, particularly children. The legislative assault and hateful rhetoric towards our community has also led to more stigma, discrimination, and ultimately, suicide and deadly violence – particularly against the transgender community. As we continue our fight for LGBTQ+ equality, this report underscores that equality is the winning side of this issue.”
The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. Anti-transgender legislation took several forms, including 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity and 42 bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law. 19 states exclude transgender athletes in school sports and 5 states restrict access to gender-affirming healthcare.
Although members of the transgender and non-binary community were the primary targets of the discriminatory legislation, anti-LGBTQ bills took other forms as well. One of the most notable trends was a resurgence of curriculum censorship and “Don’t Say Gay” bills that turn back the clock and restrict teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues and other marginalized communities in their classrooms. Across the country, 70 curriculum censorship bills were filed and seven passed into law.
The SEI’s assessment of statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies in the areas of parenting laws and policies, religious refusal and relationship recognition laws, non-discrimination laws and policies, hate crime and criminal justice laws, youth-related laws and policies and health and safety laws and policies has placed each state in one of four distinct categories based on the type of advocacy that takes place there: twenty states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, Working Toward Innovative Equality: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Five states are in the category Solidifying Equality: Alaska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Two states are in the category Building Equality: North Dakota and Kentucky.
The states in the lowest-rated category, High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality, which numbers 23, are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
HRC Foundation’s full State Equality Index report, including detailed scorecards for every state, and a preview of the 2023 state legislative session is available online.