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    An anti-gay protest. This is the worst year for LGBTQ+ discrimination, an annual study says. (Photo: EwS)

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) communities faced the worst onslaught of goverment-sanctioned discrimination last year, with 22 states considering or passing anti-gay laws, accoding to a new study.

    The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and The Equality Federation Institute, released their 8th State Equality Index (SEI), examining government policies that affect gay families.

    “This past year was one of the toughest in recent memory for our state partners and the LGBTQ+ community,” said Fran Hutchins, Executive Director of the Equality Federation Institute.

    The attacks were focused on “particularly vulnerable communities like transgender youth, covered the country with anti-trans sports and medical care bans,” Hutchins said.

    One of the more disturbing trends was a resurgence of laws that carve all-new religious exemptions into existing laws that allows people to refuse to serve LGBTQ+ individuals.

    Across the country, 44 religious refusal bills were filed including about a dozen so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills.

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    Congress passed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993.

    The law generally stated that government “may not burden or restrict a person’s exercise of religion, unless it demonstrates that the burden or restriction furthers a compelling government interest and is done through the least restrictive means.”

    The Supreme Court ruled the federal law unconstitutional for violating the principle of separation of powers and infringing on the states’ traditional authority to regulate the health and safety of its citizens.

    Since then, 23 states have passed their own version of this law, and it’s been used to justify anti-LGBTQ+ laws on religious grounds.

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    A dozen bills allowed for religious refusals against LGBTQ+ patients in medical care. South Dakota and Montana passed RFRA legislation and Ohio passed a medical care refusal bill.

    The worst states for LGBTQ+ Americans were concentrated in the South and Midwest. On a positive note, 21 states mostly in the Northeast, and Washington, D.C. were recognized for prioritizing innovative measures to advance LGBTQ+ equality.

    These states have robust LGBTQ+ non-discrimination laws covering housing, healthcare and public accommodations, according to the groups.

    But those gains come in the face of a rising tide of anti-gay legislation.

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    Last year, state legislatures across the country filed more legislation specifically targeting the transgender community than in modern history.

    In all, 147 pieces of legislation attacking gay rights were filed last year, compared with 79 bills and other measures in 2020, also a record year.

    A dozen states with Republican legislatures appeared to mount a “coordinated attack” on the transgender community, particularly children, according to the groups.

    The upshot has been a rise in “villainization, blatant discrimination, and ultimately, violence,” said JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs.

    Anti-transgender legislation took several forms last year: 81 bills banned transgender youths from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity.

    Another 43 bills prevent transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

    Tennessee and Arkansas legislatures both passed so-called “bathroom bills” that for the first time ever prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care.

    By the end of the 2021 legislative session, another record 13 bills attacking transgender youth passed into law.

    But they made up only a small percentage of harmful bills. A larger number of measures were blocked or stalled in committee.

    In more progressive states, 44 bills were passed further affirming LGBQT+ rights.

    Those measures ensure that utility companies allow consumers to change their names and pronouns; streamline adoption requirements for step-parents and provide for gender-neutral bathrooms.

    Other measures make it easier to update birth and death certificates with correct names and gender markers.

    Here are the states rated the worst for LGBQT+ Rights:

    Alabama Arizona Arkansas Georgia
    Idaho Indiana Kentucky Louisiana
    Michigan Mississippi Missouri Montana
    Nebraska North Carolina Ohio Oklahoma
    South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas
    West Virginia Wyoming

    Here are the states with the most progressive records:

    District of Columbia California Colorado Connecticut
    Delaware Hawaii Illinois Iowa
    Maine Maryland Massachusetts Minnesota
    Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico
    New York Oregon Rhode Island Vermont
    Virginia Washington

    These states are considered to be “solidifying or “building equality:”

    Alaska Pennsylvania Utah Florida
    Kansas North Dakota Wisconsin

    HRC Foundation’s full State Equality Index report, including detailed scorecards for every state, and a preview of the 2022 state legislative session is available online click here.

    The photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.