Wednesday, March 24, 2021

033 The Erickson Report for March 11 to 25, Page 2: Updates on LGBTQ+ Rights

033 The Erickson Report for March 11 to 25, Page 2: Updates on LGBTQ+ Rights

We have some updates on something I talked about last time.

Last time, I referred to the nearly 200 bills across the legislatures of at least two dozen states have been introduced this year attacking transgender youth by denying them the option of playing scholastic sports or even denying them medical transitional care.

Vivian Topping, director of advocacy and civic engagement at the Equality Federation, called it "one of the worst sessions I've seen."

The first update is that a number of those bills are advancing; at least one, in Mississippi is headed for the governor's signature with more coming. What's really disturbing is how reactionary these bills are in light of the fact that they are so unpopular, opposed in some cases even by majorities of GOPpers in the states that are pushing them.

Another update is that of course, while transgender youth seem to be the particular target of the bigots now, they are not the only ones. All LGBTQ+ people are in the crosshairs.

At least 36 states have seen what are called "RFRA-type" bills introduced since January.

RFRA is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 federal law saying that government cannot "substantially burden" religious practices without a compelling interest. Originally designed to protect religious minorities from discrimination, it has been twisted by the right into a weapon against LGBTQ+ rights. It was, for example, the basis for the Supreme Court ruling that Hobby Lobby could deny its employees contraception coverage.

States are now including language modeled on RFRA in bills ostensibly meant to allow churches to operate during the COVID pandemic but which actually are relying on a now-familiar ploy: Claiming a "religious freedom" exemption from respecting civil and human rights, insisting that invoking a god creates a constitutional right to be a bigot.

But our third update is that on the other hand, there is progress and the reality is that the bigots are fighting a losing battle and all these sorts of bills are approaching last-ditch attempts to hold on to legalization of their hate.

For one example of progress, Virginia is about to become the 12th state to ban the so-called "gay panic" defense in criminal trials, the one where someone accused of violently attacking an LGBTQ+ person says the shock of being hit on by them was so severe that they can't be held responsible for their actions.

More significantly, the Equality Act has passed the US House Representatives and while with numbskulls like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema around, it doesn't have a good chance in the Senate, it does at least have a fighting one. Not that long ago that would have been unimagineable.

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