Can States Protect LGBT Rights Without Compromising Religious Freedom?
By Emma Green
Jan. 6, 2016
Twenty-eight. That’s the number of states where it’s not against the law to discriminate against a gay person who’s looking for an apartment, applying for a job, or buying something from a store. Five more states have protections, but with exceptions: New York, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin don’t forbid discrimination against transgender people, for example, and Massachusetts and Utah don’t protect all LGBT people in all situations in which discrimination might arise. The federal government does not protect against this kind of discrimination, either, except in limited cases. Although Democrats haveproposed legislation that would change that, the chances of it successfully sliding through a Republican Congress in an election year seem slim.
The irony of gay marriage becoming legal in the United States is that it has made discrimination against LBGT people easier. For example: Many newlywed couples may be asking their employers for spousal benefits for the first time. Depending on where they live, it may or may not be illegal for that employer to respond by firing them—something that happened in a number of states in 2015. Some state legislatures have tentatively taken on this issue; Pennsylvania and Idaho, for example, both saw bills introduced in 2015. But in many places, these efforts are complicated by a tangled political question: Should these laws make exceptions for religious individuals and organizations that object to employing and providing services to gay people?
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