Two states pass laws that put agencies’ beliefs over best interests of children

Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare agency turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?

Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by putting the agency’s beliefs over the best interests of vulnerable children the agency. And, governors in two states (Oklahoma and Kansas) just signed laws allowing this to happen. These bills are the first anti-LGBT bills signed this legislative session, and are part of a greater trend to exploit vulnerable children in need of loving homes for political gain.

The reality is that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, nine states have passed these license to discriminate laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child.

These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:

  • An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents don’t meet the religious litmus test of the agency.
  • An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
  • An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
  • An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.

In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with adsstrategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption

Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.

NEW REPORT: State Preemption and the Threat to Progress and Equality

North Carolina’s HB2 was a terrible bill for many reasons. Not only did it ban transgender people from accessing restrooms, it also prevented local cities from (1) protecting their residents from discrimination and (2) from raising the local minimum wage. How?

The state legislature reversed a local law protecting LGBT people and prevented any other city in the state from protecting LGBT people or raising the minimum wage, through a tactic called “preemption.” This tactic is part of an increasingly common strategy by state legislatures throughout the country to limit local progress on a wide range of issues, from the minimum wage and paid leave to pro-immigrant policies and LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. Although the reasoning behind current state preemption efforts can vary, the impact remains the same: tying the hands of local lawmakers and preventing them from providing the protections they know match their residents’ values and are needed in their communities.

MAP’s latest report, The Power of State Preemption: Preventing Progress and Threatening Equality, shows the spread and impact of these efforts, both across the country and across a wide range of issues including LGBT equality. This report was developed in partnership with A Better BalanceEquality Federation, Family Values @ Work, and the Local Solutions Support Center.

In the absence of state leadership to protect LGBT people from discrimination, local ordinances have been instrumental stepping stones toward statewide nondiscrimination protections. Yet, anti-LGBT activists have leveraged preemption efforts to target LGBT equality in at least two key ways:  hindering local nondiscrimination ordinances (often by targeting transgender people and restricting restroom access), and preventing cities from banning harmful conversion therapy practices used against LGBT youth.

 

However, state preemption isn’t only an LGBT issue. More than 20 states have preemption laws that prevent cities from increasing their local minimum wage or from guaranteeing local workers paid sick leave. Nine states forbid cities from passing sanctuary city ordinances or taking other similar measures to protect their immigrant residents–and in 2017 alone, 33 more states considered similar bills preventing pro-immigrant policies. When preemption is used in this way–to set a maximum rather than minimum level of protections–there are drastic consequences for cities and states alike, including:

  • Leaving residents open to discrimination
  • Placing special interests and profits over local residents
  • Hurting workers, and especially low-income communities
  • Limiting cities’ abilities to create diverse, thriving local economics
  • Hamstringing local officials’ ability to do what is right for their cities

Majority of LGBT Americans Can Now Get an Accurate Birth Certificate Without Burdensome Requirements

Thanks to recent updates in Idaho and Florida, 51% of LGBT adults now live in states that issue new birth certificates without requiring sex reassignment surgery or a court order. Previously transgender people in these states had to provide proof of “sexual reassignment surgery,” while those living in Idaho could not get an updated birth certificate.  Now transgender people in Florida can provide a letter from a medical provider asserting they have undergone transition-related care to change their gender marker. In Idaho, transgender people must complete paperwork, and have it notarized—a simple and straightforward process.

The changes in these states are major milestones in the fight for equality for transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Official identity documents—such as drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, and passports—that do not match a transgender person’s gender identity greatly complicate that person’s life. According to the United States Transgender Survey, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who have shown an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted. A recent ad produced by MAP called “Movie Theater” depicts how transgender people can experience harassment, discrimination and denial of equal treatment in places of public accommodation. In it, a transgender man is the subject of harassment because his gender marker on his drivers’ license does not match his gender identity.

Thirty-one states either require proof of surgery, a court order, or have unclear policies regarding updating the gender markers on birth certificates. For some transgender people, requiring surgery is neither affordable nor desirable. And another three states do not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate.

By eliminating this requirement for updating their birth certificates, these 16 states and the District of Columbia are making it easier for transgender people to go about their daily lives and to exist equally.

Read more about the updated requirements from Equality Florida: http://www.eqfl.org/transactionfl/birth-certificates and Lambda Legal: https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20180406_idaho-makes-history

Click here to visit MAP’s updated equality maps page to see where your state stands on identity document laws and policies, including requirements for updating gender markers: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/identity_document_laws 

Fighting to Protect Kids in Care

Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?

Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by protecting the agency.

Now imagine that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, seven states have passed discriminatory and harmful laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child. These laws create a license to discriminate and allow agencies to flatly refuse to consider well-qualified prospective families for child placement—and still receive government funding.

Three states passed these laws last year, and we’ve seen several states consider this type of legislation in 2018. These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:

  • An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents are gay or lesbian.
  • An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
  • An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
  • An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.

In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.

Earlier this month, an adoption discrimination bill in Georgia was stalled, however, adoption discrimination bills in Kansas and Oklahoma continue to advance, and we’re watching these closely.

MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with ads, strategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption

Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.

The Wage Gap and LGBT Women

Today is Equal Pay Day, which reflects the approximate number of extra days the typical woman must work to in 2018 to make what the typical man made in 2017 alone. Based on data from the Census Bureau, in 2018 a woman earns $0.80 for every $1.00 earned by a man.

Despite significant progress made over the past 50 years, women’s economic security is still extremely vulnerable. For example, when the wage gap is combined with attempts by the Trump Administration to create a right to refuse vital health care, or efforts in states to thwart paid family leave, women are at even greater risk of economic insecurity.

But that’s not the whole story.

We also know this disparity is worse for women of color and LGBT women.

For LGBT women, discrimination and stigma because of their sexual orientation and gender identity mean that they and their families are especially vulnerable to economic insecurity. Read more in MAP’s groundbreaking report, Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America, released in 2015.

Addressing the ways in which all women are forced to pay an unfair price requires that LGBT women, women of color, parents, and all women, be treated equally.

INFOGRAPHICS: Religious Refusals in Health Care

Across the country, there is a growing effort to create religious exemptions in many areas of life. Religious exemptions are carve outs to existing laws and policies that aim to allow people, organizations, or businesses to be exempt from a law if they claim that the law violates their religious or moral beliefs. In the context of healthcare, these exemptions result in doctors medical providers refusing to provide medical care. These “religious refusals” can even allow hospital administrators to keep a doctor from providing the best care to their patients because the hospital objects to providing that care, even if the doctor doesn’t.

For example, some exemptions mean women could be denied birth control or other health care coverage because of their employer’s religious beliefs, and LGBT people can be denied basic services because of a doctor’s disapproval of who they are or the care they need. Allowing healthcare providers to ignore standard medical best practices and instead put their personal beliefs before patient health has the potential to gravely harm millions of people and their families’ health. Patients’ health and wellbeing should always come first.

These graphics show the impact and implications of religious refusals. Learn more in MAP’s latest report: Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster.

NEW REPORT: A Prescription for Disaster

MAP is sounding the alarm. Did you know there is a coordinated and widespread push to pass a variety of religious exemptions laws that would give medical professionals a license to discriminate against their patients? The Trump Administration, in particular, has made a dramatic effort to insert religious refusals into peoples’ health care. Earlier this year, the Administration’s announced a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Department of Health and Human Services, and 

proposed rules that seek to radically expand the ability of health care providers and institutions to deny patients care based on religious or moral beliefs. And tomorrow, March 27, the comment period this dangerous new proposed rule closes. Click here to share your story with the Trump Administration and let them know that personal beliefs should never override patient care.

These religious refusal laws are undermining the very foundation of our medical system, which should be to put patients first and to do no harm.

To bring attention to the coordinated strategy to insert religious refusals into the health care of millions of people, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the National Center for Transgender Equality released a new report, Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster. This new report examines the impact of religious refusals on people’s health and wellbeing, and showcases the broad and dangerous implications of these refusals on LGBT people, women, people of color, low-income people, religious minorities, and more.

What can happen when health providers are able to refuse treatment and choose which patients they wish to serve?

  • Creating a health care system when patients’ health comes second to health care providers’ personal beliefs.
  • Restricting access to a wide range of reproductive health care, including emergency care.
  • Allowing healthcare providers to limit information shared with patients
  • Refusing health care for patients because of who they are, including women, transgender people, LGBT people, and children of LGBT parents.
  • Permitting refusals of care for sexual health, including sexually-transmitted infection and HIV-related health care.

Click here to learn more about how religious refusals are comprising patient health: Religious Refusals in Health Care: A Prescription for Disaster

Open to All Week: Recap

Last week, the Open to All coalition and MAP launched the inaugural Open to All Week to raise awareness about the importance of nondiscrimination protections and why if businesses are open to the public, they should be open to all. Two important United States Supreme Court cases are shaping this conversation: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises.

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Piggie Park case, which involved a small barbeque chain still open today, that wanted the right to refuse service to African American customers. The owner, a segregationist, claimed that the Civil Rights Act violated his religious freedom.

The Court disagreed in a landmark decision issued on March 18, 1968.

So, what does the Piggie Park case have to do with Open to All and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case?

The impact of Piggie Park has reverberated for decades as a critical part of the foundation of our nation’s Civil Rights laws, and the principle that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission involves a Colorado bakery that discriminated against a gay couple in violation of Colorado law, and is claiming it should be exempt from the state’s law due to the religious beliefs of its owner.

A win for the bakery would set us back decades and transport our country back to a time when businesses could say “we don’t serve your kind here,” and would give businesses a legal, constitutionally protected license to discriminate against LGBT people, people of color, minority faiths, people with disabilities, and women. The Open to All coalition was formed in December 2017 to build support for nondiscrimination laws and focus attention on the far-reaching, dangerous risks of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

That’s why Open to All Week is so critical, to remind people that the Supreme Court has heard these arguments before. And just as they did 50 years ago, the Court must reject discrimination.

To amplify this message, we released a number of resources for Open to all Week, including two new ads “Open to All” and “Will We Go Back?“, opinion pieces, a policy brief, and new shareables on social media.

We’re heartened by the efforts of advocates, allies, and even celebrities during Open to All week. Because of the collective outreach of the nearly 150 organizations involved in Open to All, our message reached millions of people on social media.

Check out some of the great #OpentoAll posts from major influencers and celebrities:

Today, as the nation awaits a decision in Masterpiece, Piggie Park’s legacy must be honored. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • WATCH the ads and share them on social media. Visit www.opentoall.com/sharefor all the shareable Open to All resources.
  • READ about the parallels between the cases and why Masterpiece has the potential to alter our nation’s civil rights laws in “50 Years Ago vs. Today: Piggie Park & The High Stakes of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case”
  • VOICE your support for Open to All Week over social media throughout the week with the hashtag #OpentoAllWeek. And follow Open to All on Twitter and Facebook for new content throughout the week.
  • SIGN UP for breaking news, ways to take action in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and to add your support for the Open to All Coalition.
  • SIGN the ACLU’s People’s Petition and tell the Supreme Court to reject discrimination.

 

NEW AD: 50 Years Later: Will We Go Back?

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of its fastest rulings ever in a landmark case, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises. Piggie Park, a small barbeque chain which is still open today, wanted the right to refuse service to African American customers. The owner, a segregationist, claimed that the Civil Rights Act violated his religious freedom.

The Supreme Court delivered a resounding rebuke of the barbecue chain on March 18, 1968, definitively ruling that the restaurant could no longer discriminate.

Sound familiar? That’s because it is.

Now, fifty years later, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a Colorado bakery that discriminated against a gay couple in violation of Colorado law is claiming it should be exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination law due to the religious beliefs of its owner.

To mark the fifty-year anniversary of the Piggie Park decision, the Open to All campaign, MAP, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a new ad, “Will We Go Back?,” that looks at how a current case before the Supreme Court threatens this historic ruling. The ad was released as part of Open to All Week, March 12-18, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark decision. Learn more about the Piggie Park case and how creating a constitutional license to discriminate in Masterpiece could undermine that historic ruling against discrimination.

Read the story in the Huffington Post “Supreme Court’s Cake Case Could Set America Back 50 Years, Activists Warn

A win for the bakery in Masterpiece threatens the historic legacy of the Piggie Park decision, and could take us back to a shameful era in our nation’s history, an era where businesses could claim a right to discriminate as they see fit—not just for LGBT people, but for people of color, minority faiths, people with disabilities, and women.

Businesses and their owners have a right to their religious beliefs—but that freedom shouldn’t give businesses a license to discriminate.

Take Action:

  • WATCH “Will We Go Back?” and share on social media. Visit www.opentoall.com/sharefor all the shareable Open to All resources.
  • READ about the parallels between the cases and why Masterpiece has the potential to alter our nation’s civil rights laws in “50 Years Ago vs. Today: Piggie Park & The High Stakes of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case”
  • VOICE your support for Open to All Week over social media throughout the week with the hashtag #OpentoAllWeek. And follow Open to All on Twitter and Facebook for new content throughout the week.
  • SIGN UP for breaking news, ways to take action in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and to add your support for the Open to All Coalition.
  • SIGN the ACLU’s People’s Petition and tell the Supreme Court to reject discrimination.
  • DONATE and support more ads like “Will We Go Back?”

NEW AD: “Open to All”

March 12-18 is Open to All Week, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision in the case of Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises. Piggie Park, a small barbeque chain which is still open today, wanted the right to refuse service to African American customers. The owner, a segregationist, claimed that the Civil Rights Act violated his religious freedom. The Supreme Court disagreed.

To help raise awareness of this important anniversary MAP and the Open to All Coalition launched Open to All Week, and released a new ad, “Open to All” featuring Christian small business owners—Howard and Pat—speaking about how nobody should be turned away from a business simply because of who they are.

Now the nation awaits a decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the owner of a bakery is claiming that the state’s nondiscrimination law, which requires him to serve same-sex couples, unconstitutionally violates his religious beliefs.

A win for the bakery in Masterpiece threatens the historic legacy of the Piggie Park decision and could take us back to a shameful era in our nation’s history, an era where businesses could claim a right to discriminate as they see fit.

Piggie Park wasn’t just about barbeque. And Masterpiece isn’t just about cake.

The stakes of the Masterpiece case couldn’t be higher—not just for LGBT people, but for people of color, minority faiths, people with disabilities, and women. Because if a bakery can discriminate against same-sex couples, it won’t stop with bakeries, or with same-sex couples.

This ad was produced by MAP as part of the Open to All coalition, a nationwide public engagement campaign to build understanding and discussion about the importance of our nation’s nondiscrimination laws—and the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.

To learn more about Open to All week and to view the ad, visit www.Opentoall.com/open-to-all-week