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Religious exemption laws attack LGBT rights: Human Rights Watch

21, Feb 2018 | CJP Team

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report outlining how a slew of new “religious exemption” laws passed in several states in the United States are a “thinly-veiled assault agaisnt the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” Ryan Thoreson, an LGBT rights researcher at HRW, said that calling the laws “exemptions” is “misleading,” adding, “Given the dearth of laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in the first place, legislators are getting it exactly backwards and creating exceptions before they’ve ever established the rule.” HRW interviewed 112 LGBT people, service providers and advocates in states that have recently enacted religious exemption laws, with the majority in Michigan, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In Michigan, state-supported adoption and foster care agencies can refuse to place children with LGBT families on moral or religious grounds. In Mississippi, a range of people, businesses, and service providers can discriminate against LGBT people on similar grounds pertaining to their beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, transgender identity and extramarital sex. In Tennessee, mental health counsellors can refuse clients on religious grounds. According to HRW, the report outlines how recent laws enable discrimination against LGBT people within the context of healthcare, adoption and foster care, and access to certain goods and services. At present, just 19 US states and the District of Columbia directly bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity with respect to housing, employment, and public accommodations. Utah, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire have partial protections in place. The remaining 28 US states do not have any laws explicitly barring discrimination against LGBT people.

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