Georgia joined 27 other states in the Human Rights Campaign’s lowest-rated category on the group’s annual State Equality Index.
Georgia received negative marks for having no nondiscrimination protections or hate crimes law, and for the presence of HIV criminalization laws and transgender exclusions in state Medicaid coverage.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, called on legislators to act.
“Once again, we see that Georgia is falling behind other states who have taken action to recognize the humanity of LGBTQ individuals by offering the needed legal protections that create an environment of fairness, safety and opportunity,” Graham (top photo, center) said in a press release.
“It is well past time that our legislators stop debating whether or not to discriminate against us and begin to debate how best to protect the estimated 358,000 children, youth and adults who identify as LGBTQ,” he added.
HRC ranked Georgia in the “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality” category. Two states — Utah and Wisconsin — were rated “Building Equality.” Four states — Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland and New Hampshire — were rated as “Solidifying Equality.” Some 16 states were rated highest with “Working Toward Innovative Equality.”
Every state in the South landed in the lowest-rated category.
Georgia did receive positive marks for requiring schools to have suicide prevention policies, LGBTQ-inclusive juvenile justice policies and a law against cyberbullying,
HRC President Chad Griffin called for LGBTQ protections on the federal level.
“LGBTQ people still face the sobering reality that their rights are determined by which side of a state or city line they call home,” Griffin said in a press release. “As this year’s State Equality Index makes clear, the time has come for us to do away with this patchwork of state laws and to protect all LGBTQ people by passing the federal Equality Act.”
State Rep. Sandra Scott filed a broad civil rights bill that would protect LGBTQ Georgians from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. House Bill 19 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but has not received a hearing yet.
Georgia is one of only five states in the nation without a hate crimes law. A hate crimes bill that would protect people based on sexual orientation and gender – but not gender identity – made it out of committee last year but failed to get a vote before the full House.
When House Speaker David Ralston was asked Jan. 10 about the chances of getting a hate crime law on the books this year, he said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if someone introduced such a bill this year.