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NC State Lawmakers ‘Wait and See’ on Equal Protections as LGBT Workers Suffer Discrimination

NC State Lawmakers ‘Wait and See’ on Equal Protections as LGBT Workers Suffer Discrimination

Cowed by the backlash against North Carolina’s HB 2, conservative states are dragging their feet on providing employment protections for LGBTs.

Pictured: Inside the Indiana State House

In 2015, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a “religious freedom” bill that many LGBTs saw as a license to discriminate. A year later, Pence is headed to the White House as vice president-elect, but Hoosier State politicians are still grappling with how to protect queer people in the workplace.

Their solution? Wait it out.

In fact, several conservative state governments are stalling on resolving the issue of LGBT employee or school protections one way or the other until the new federal administration, under Donald Trump, makes a move.

In Indiana, a pro-LGBT bill filed in the state Senate floundered after more than two dozen amendments stymied debate and prevented the bill from moving forward. One of those amendments included a “bathroom bill”-type law that would prevent transgender people from using the restroom matching their gender identity. Conservatives watched in horror as a similar policy in North Carolina, HB 2, cost the state millions of dollars, hundreds of jobs, and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory reelection.

In Kentucky, where Gov. Matt Bevin has Republican majorities in both legislative houses, the Associated Press reported that Bevin—who was part of the federal lawsuit against public schools accommodating transgender students’ bathroom needs—will not push forward a “bathroom bill” in the upcoming session “because it is not an issue here.”

So few state conservatives, despite heavy rhetoric earlier in the year, look willing to risk passing any policies on LGBT discrimination until they get some direction from Washington.

Meanwhile, queer people continue to suffer the real effects of workplace discrimination. Take transgender Americans. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, more than half of out transgender students are verbally harassed because they are transgender; almost a quarter are physically attacked.

In the workplace, 30 percent of transgender employees said they were fired, denied a promotion, or otherwise mistreated because of their gender identity. A transgender American is three times more likely to be unemployed than the average American, and one-third of transgender Americans live in poverty.

Caught among the real toll discrimination takes on queer Americans, a surprising defeat in North Carolina, and a wild card administration in the White House, state conservatives are choosing what they consider the lesser of all evils: do nothing.

Good luck with that. 

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Michael Lambert