By Professor Art Lenard
Alaska — Local newspapers and social media in Anchorage, Alaska, were flooded with arguments pro and con concerning a proposition on the ballot to repeal protection against gender identity discrimination in places of public accommodation. The mail-in election was to be concluded as of the end of the day on April 3, with hand-counting of paper ballots and results to be certified on April 17.
Florida — The Gainesville City Commissioners have approved on first reading a measure that bans licensed professionals from performing conversion therapy, following the lead of 6 other Florida jurisdictions. However, the Gainesville Sun reported on March 17, the measure requires approval in a second vote in April to take effect. The newspaper noted that a lawsuit is on file attacking the constitutionality of a similar ordinance adopted by Tampa.
Georgia — A last-ditch effort by anti-LGBT forces in the Georgia legislature to enact an anti-LGBT adoption bill failed on the final day of the 2018 session, March 29. Also, for the fifth consecutive year, sponsors of an anti-LGBT religious exemptions bill failed in their efforts to get one enacted.
Maine — A bill to ban conversion therapy on minors was approved by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, and awaits votes in both chambers of the legislature. Portland Press Herald, March 8. But we speculate that there is no way that the governor, a conservative Republican, will sign it if it happens to pass.
Maryland — The Senate voted on March 28 to approve a bill outlawing the performance of conversion therapy on minors by a vote of 34–12. The measure now goes to the House.
Mississippi — After the City Council in Starkville, Mississippi, voted by a narrow margin on February 20 to deny a permit for a gay pride parade to be held on March 24, Roberta Kaplan’s firm filed a suit on behalf of the local Pride organization against the City, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the 1st and 14th Amendments. Starkville Pride v. City of Starkville, Civil Action №1:18cv032-SA-DAS (N.D. Miss., filed Feb. 26, 2018), with local counsel Alysson Mills and Kristen Amond of Fishmanb Haygood LLP, New Orleans. Filing suit did the trick. The Council promptly took up the matter again and narrowly voted to grant the permit. Impact litigation had an immediate impact.
New Hampshire — A bipartisan House majority (196–129) approved HB 1319, which would add gender identity to the state’s civil rights statute. Republican Governor Chris Sununu has stated that he would sign the bill if it passes the Senate. Acting on subject matter related bills, the House voted 188–140 to defeat HB 1560, which would forbid the state’s Medicaid program from paying for sex reassignment drugs, hormone therapy, or surgery. The House voted 164–162 to narrowly defeat HB 1532, a ban on the performance of gender reassignment surgery on minors. In most states, transgender people cannot obtain surgical procedures until their reach age 18, the age specified by the Standards of Care generally referred to as authoritative by medical authorities and courts in the U.S. (By contrast, as reported in the International Notes section of this issue, Australia’s Family Court has ruled that transgender teens can obtain surgical gender affirmation procedures without judicial provision, if their parents and health care providers approve.
New York — On March 6, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz signed into law a county ordinance making the practice of conversion therapy unlawful. The law forbids therapists from counseling LGBT minors in an effort to make them heterosexual, the Buffalo News reported on March 6. The County Legislature unanimously approved the measure in February.
Washington — The state legislature finished work early in March on a bill to ban licensed therapists from performing conversion therapy on minors. The bill would deem it “unprofessional conduct,” subjecting providers to sanctions ranging from fines to license revocation or suspension. The Senate agreed to changes made in the House that would expressly exempt non-licensed counselors working as part of a religious organization, denomination or church. It was sent to Governor Jay Inslee, who signed it into law on March 28.
Wisconsin — The Associated Press (March 27) reported that the City Alderman in Milwaukee approved an ordinance banning the performance of conversion therapy on minors on March 27. Mayor Tom Barrett had until April 7 to sign the measure, which he indicated that he planned to do. Therapists who perform the prohibited procedures can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation. The measure applies only to therapists who charge for their services, and will not apply to religion-based(so-called “pray away the gay”) counseling.
Each month for the last 40 years, the LGBT Bar Association of New York publishes LGBT Law Notes, the most comprehensive monthly publication covering the latest legal and legislative developments affecting the LGBT community here and abroad.
Art Leonard is the Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law at New York Law School and the Editor of LGBT Law Notes