This year, as our nation faced unprecedented challenges, leaders in our states took action to help their constituents weather multiple crises while working to deliver the change that our communities need.
By championing pro-LGBTQ legislation, policies and proposals, states have bettered the lives of millions and provided hope and inspiration for the urgent work ahead to advance equality for all.
This year, in a victory generations in the making, Virginia became the first Southern state to enact comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The Virginia Values Act, which went into effect this July, extends existing state non-discrimination protections in public employment, housing and credit to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity among several other characteristics, and it adds all-new statewide protections from discrimination in employment and places of public accommodation. This crucial victory would not have been possible without years and years of tireless work from advocates across the Commonwealth.
Virginia also passed several other key pieces of legislation to protect LGBTQ people in the state, including ending the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” We also saw progress this year across our nation’s different regions — as Colorado and New Jersey banned the harmful, dehumanizing LGBTQ panic defense. In spite of many states holding shortened legislative sessions, 47 total pro-equality bills became law.
Our community also realized unprecedented progress at the federal level with the Bostock vs. Clayton County decision, as the Supreme Court made clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited under the federal employment non-discrimination law. While the Bostock decision will have a major impact on federal employment non-discrimination law and beyond, states must continue to ensure that LGBTQ people’s right to be free from discrimination is treated in the same way they treat discrimination on the basis of other protected characteristics.
Despite this progress, and in the midst of multiple crises, anti-equality forces prioritized pushing legislation targeting the LGBTQ community. Many of these bills sought to bar transgender student-athletes from participating in sports. With much more important issues to be addressed in our schools, lawmakers chose to target transgender youth to score cheap political points. In Idaho, where such a bill passed this year, lawmakers went out of their way to attack an already vulnerable population. Everyone deserves the opportunity to play sports, and lawmakers should be focusing on protecting and educating our children — not teaching them that they or their classmates are less than anyone else.
There is urgent work ahead to defeat the forces of hate and discrimination in this nation, and to address the fundamental injustices that have corrupted our institutions for generations. This past year has underscored how white supremacy has a toxic grip on our democracy — a reality that too many of us have lived with for far too long. We have provided leaders with specific recommendations on how they can take concrete action to combat systemic oppression in their states and improve the lives of all the people they serve in the process.
We would not be able to achieve the necessary progress ahead without the strength of our shared partnerships, including our partners at the Equality Federation Institute and statewide LGBTQ organizations. Together, and with your support, we will continue to fight for justice for our communities and to achieve the north star of true equality.