Thursday, April 21, 2016

One step forward, two steps back?

An alarming trend toward legalized discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations against the LGBT community seems to be emerging in parts of the United States with the introduction of anti-LGBT bills in 28 state legislatures.  A new North Carolina law that has captured significant media attention requires transgender people to use bathrooms based on their birth certificate sex, not their gender identity, and other "bathroom surveillance" bills are pending. 
A controversial Mississippi religious freedom bill espousing a 'moral conviction' about traditional gender identity and stereotypes is scheduled to take effect on July 1 to “protect people, religious organizations, and some businesses who object to recognizing the gender identity of transgender people and/or refuse service based on their religious opposition to same-sex marriage”.

Here are some of the Mississippi law’s provisions:
  • protect anyone who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman from discrimination claims
  • “male” and “female” pertain only to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth
  • sexual relations are reserved solely for marriage
  • religious organizations can deny LGBT people marriage, adoption and foster care services; fire or refuse to employ them; and decline to rent or sell them property.
  • medical professionals can refuse to participate in treatments, counseling and surgery related to "sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning"
  • employers and school administrators can establish "sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming," including dictating access to bathrooms and locker rooms
  • clerks and their deputies can recuse themselves from licensing marriages, and judges, magistrates, justices of the peace and their deputies will be given a similar process for recusing themselves from performing marriages, based on their religious beliefs.
  • businesses can deny services to same-sex couples

Equally disturbing, in both Mississippi and Georgia it is already legal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment decisions.   

One wonders about the direction our country is heading.  After finally achieving a significant step forward with the legalization of same sex marriage, are we now taking two steps back?
                                                                                                                        Judith Wolf, MD                   
                                                                                                                  Associate Director, WHEP

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