Pro Bono News

States Move to Expand LGBTQ Protections

Thursday, February 28, 2019

States Move to Expand LGBTQ Protections

"NEW YORK STATE RECENTLY expanded its anti-discrimination laws to include gender identity and expression to protect people from bias in housing, public accommodations, education and employment. Kansas' new Democratic governor signed an executive order in January banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in state employment. And the ultra-conservative Utah State Legislature is moving on legislation to ban so-called "conversion therapy" for youth – a controversial, pseudoscientific practice meant to turn homosexual people into heterosexuals.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are battling what they characterize as an extremely hostile environment in Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration has banned transgender people from the military and sought to roll back anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people under federal civil rights law. But at the state level, those advocates are making some startling strides – even in red states.

Most notable is the broad movement to ban conversion therapy for minors. The practice has been denounced by the American Psychiatric Association, which updated a 1998 statement of disapproval in 2013, saying such therapy presents a "significant risk of harm" to the patient. The states, which issue licenses to medical personnel, are the ones that have the authority to discipline therapists who practice conversion therapy.

So far, 15 states (including Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Delaware – all of which did so in 2018) have joined the District of Columbia in banning the therapy for minors, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT rights group. Proponents are optimistic that Massachusetts, Maine and Colorado may follow this year. Legislation banning conversion therapy is also pending in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. That trend runs counter to the Republican Platform of 2016, which says parents should have the right to determine "proper medical treatment and therapy" for their minor children, which could include controversial or even harmful methods..."

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