Southern U.S. Enacts More Anti-LGBT Laws

On April 27, 2016 Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a provision that allows mental health counselors to deny services to people. This is one of many recently enacted laws with an anti-LGBT basis – and more are being considered in various states.

Tennessee HB1840 provides a basis for mental health counselors and therapists to refuse service to patients based on the provider’s religious or personal beliefs. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are questioning this and similar laws in other states, such as Mississippi’s HB1523 and North Carolina’s HB2 as being discriminatory against the LGBT community and a misuse of “religious liberty.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued this statement on April 18, 2016 in its condemnation of recent state laws and pending proposals of these laws and others that are anti-LGBT in nature:

“Religious freedom is an important foundation of our nation. However, in the past, ‘religious liberty’ has been used to block racial integration and anti-discrimination laws. Those past efforts failed and this new attempt to revive an old evasive tactic should be rejected as well. The North Carolina and Mississippi laws, and similar legislation proposed in other states, perverts the meaning of religious liberty and perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, marginalizes the transgender and gay community and has no place in our society.”

Oxford, Alabama City Council Passes Ordinance in Reaction to Target Stores’ Support of Customer and Employee Restroom Use Based on Gender Identity

Oxford, Alabama, a city of fewer than 25,000 people enacted one of the most recent ordinances aimed at the transgender community. On April 26, 2016 Oxford’s city council passed an ordinance making it a crime punishable by a fine of $500 or six months in jail to use a public restroom of the gender opposite that which appeared on that person’s birth certificate.

Steven Waits, Oxford City Council President, explained that the council there acted in response an announcement by Target stores that its customers and employees were free to use the restroom that coincided with their gender identity. Target operates a store in the city.

Oklahoma Legislators Consider Anti-LGBT Legislation

Oklahoma has crafted a bill, HJR1059, sponsored by Rep. Mark McCullough, that would allow certain individuals to deny service to others based on the provider’s religious beliefs – much like Tennessee HB1840 just signed into law.

Oklahoma had an another bill, SB1289, introduced in February 2016, that sought to prevent local governments from passing anti-discrimination protections against the LGBT community and others, much in the same way North Carolina HB2 does, but this bill died in committee.

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