After being named a state that was “Building Equality” for LGBT citizens last year, Indiana is now among 28 states rated “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality,” the lowest category.
On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute released their fifth annual State Equality Index, a comprehensive report detailing statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families, and assessing how well states are protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
Because there are currently no comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBTQ individuals at the federal level, the rights of millions of LGBTQ people and their families depend on which state they live in, says Allison Turner, HRC deputy press secretary.
In 30 states, including Indiana, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted, or denied services.
In the SEI report's scorecard for Indiana, the state was rated as lacking in the following areas:
- Indiana does not prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Indiana does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Hate Crimes
- Indiana—along with South Carolina, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Georgia—is currently one of only five states in the country without a hate crimes law on the books. Both Republican and Democratic leaders have pledged 2019 would be the year Indiana would remove itself from this ever-shrinking list. However, the question of whether or not to include protected classes continues to be a sticking point.
- Public Accommodations
- Indiana does not prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- School Anti-Bullying
- Indiana does not have a law that addresses harassment and/or bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Indiana does not have a law that addresses discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But we do have a bill currently before the General Assembly (House Bill 1525) requiring students in Indiana schools to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex; it also mandates students may participate only in the athletic programs corresponding to the student's biological sex.
- Transgender Healthcare
- Indiana has neither a ban on insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare, nor does it provide transgender-inclusive health benefits to state employees.
- Conversion Therapy
- Indiana has no restrictions on so-called "conversion therapy." However, a bill introduced during the current legislative session, House Bill 1231, authored by Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, prohibits a mental health provider from engaging in conversion therapy with a patient less than 18 years of age, and subjects a mental health provider who violates the prohibition to disciplinary action.
This year, the number of states that obtained the SEI’s highest rating, “Working Toward Innovative Equality,” increased from 13 to 17. States in this category have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws that include employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the realm of credit, insurance, and jury selection. Most allow transgender people to change official documents to reflect their gender identity. Almost all bar private insurers from banning transition-related healthcare.
LGBTQ youth are protected by anti-bullying laws, as well as innovative measures in some states that address conversion therapy, inclusive juvenile justice policies, homelessness, and sexual education. Those states include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland and New Hampshire are in the category “Solidifying Equality.” States in this category have nondiscrimination protections, and are considered high-performing but not cutting edge on LGBTQ equality. Many of these states allow transgender individuals to change gender markers on official documents. Most allow second parent adoption. These states have relatively robust anti-bullying laws, but bad laws begin to crop up in this category.
Utah and Wisconsin, are in the category “Building Equality.” States in this category have taken steps toward more robust LGBTQ equality, including passing basic non-discrimination and hate crimes laws. Many of these states allow gender markers to be changed on official documents while they have very little protections for transgender health care. Some lack explicit gender identity protections, and several lack comprehensive anti-bullying laws. Bad laws are more common, so advocates work to stop bills that undermine LGBTQ equality, and pass more comprehensive non-discrimination laws.
States in the category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality,” including Indiana, have many laws that undermine LGBTQ equality, from those that criminalize HIV and sodomy, to measures allowing religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people. An overwhelming majority do not have non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation or gender identity protections; few have hate crime laws.
LGBTQ advocates largely work on killing bills they view as harmful, and on passing municipal protections for LGBTQ people. Those states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The U.S. House of Representatives is soon poised to begin considering the Equality Act, a historic bill that would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
More than 130 major employers, with operations in all 50 states, have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, urging Congress to pass these protections.