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Study: Best States for LGBTQ Rights

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A new study by BestPlaces looks at ten indicators to produce the first ranking of Best States for LGBTQ Rights. Same-sex marriage is the only federally-mandated right, so other related rights vary widely across the 50 states.

Ten topics are evaluated:

  • Conversion Therapy – State Protects Youth From So-Called “Conversion Therapy”
  • Education – Address discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • Employment – Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • Gender Marker Updates On Identification Documents – Facilitate gender marker update on birth certificates and/or driver’s licenses
  • Hate Crimes – Address hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • Housing – Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • Marriage Equality & Other Relationship Recognition – FEDERAL MANDATE – Issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples
  • Public Accommodations – Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity
  • School Anti-Bullying – Address harassment and/or bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Transgender Healthcare – Both bans on insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare and provide transgender inclusive health benefits for state employees

To produce the ranking, recent news and legislation were researched and various advocacy groups consulted. Of particular use was the State Equality Index conducted annually by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Rankings

For each issue that a state currently provides full legal support for, one full point is assigned. Where a state provides partial legal support for an issue, one-half of a point is given. No points are given where support is absent. A total of 10 points are possible.

Most Rights

The 14 states in green on the map (score of 8 or above) currently have a broad range of protections for LGBTQ people, having partial or full support for all ten of the categories. Six states (California, Connecticut, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Washington) and the District of Columbia support all ten of the categories, earning a top score of 10.

Some Rights

Several states are only a few steps away from complete legal protection in the ten categories considered. Massachusetts and Vermont could achieve a top score by improving their policies facilitating gender marker updates on identification documents (e.g. birth certificates and driver licenses). Illinois has no bans on insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare nor does it provide transgender-inclusive health benefits to state employees. Maryland lacks legislation that addresses discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Minnesota has no restrictions on so-called “conversion therapy.” Rhode Island law does not address discrimination against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Minimal Rights

Nine states currently give no support for any of the researched issues. These states (Alaska, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming) receive the lowest overall score of one point.

You can view the entire spreadsheet here, outlining all the rights issues and their level of support by state.

2019 BestPlaces LGBTQ RankingPoints
California10
Connecticut 10
Nevada 10
New York 10
Oregon 10
Washington 10
District of Columbia 10
Massachusetts 9.5
Vermont9.5
Illinois9
Maryland9
Minnesota9
Rhode Island9
New Jersey8.5
Colorado8
Delaware8
Hawaii7.5
Maine7.5
Iowa7
New Hampshire7
New Mexico6
Utah4
Wisconsin3.5
Missouri2.5
Pennsylvania2.5
Arizona2
Arkansas2
Kansas2
North Carolina2
West Virginia2
Alabama1.5
Florida 1.5
Idaho 1.5
Indiana 1.5
Kentucky 1.5
Louisiana 1.5
Nebraska 1.5
North Dakota 1.5
Ohio 1.5
Tennessee 1.5
Texas 1.5
Virginia 1.5
Alaska 1
Georgia 1
Michigan 1
Mississippi 1
Montana 1
Oklahoma 1
South Carolina 1
South Dakota 1
Wyoming 1

Source: Press release

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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Says Religious Institutions That Oppose Gay Marriage Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status

The Democratic presidential candidate gave an unequivocal answer Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights, drawing intense criticism from Republicans and religious groups.

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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is shown during a Sept. 28, 2019, appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position that sparked swift and fierce criticism from social conservatives.

The former El Paso congressman made the comment Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights. Anchor Don Lemon asked O’Rourke, “Do you think religious institutions — like colleges, churches, charities — should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”

“Yes,” O’Rourke replied without hesitating, drawing a round of applause. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us, and so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

In taking the stance, O’Rourke again staked out politically explosive territory with few allies in the primary field, much like his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons following the deadly El Paso shooting in August. He did not immediately back down from the position on tax-exempt status, tweeting his quote on the topic minutes after he was done at the town hall.

By Friday, GOP reaction had intensified, with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, issuing a statement denouncing O’Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”

“O’Rourke and some Democrats have declared war on churches,” Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said in a statement. “We say come and take it. This unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their Biblical beliefs on marriage must end and will be vigorously opposed. This is just another example of leftists that want to effectively ban the Bible and destroy our US Constitution.”

Calling O’Rourke’s position a “direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” the Plano-based First Liberty Institute said it was prepared to take legal action if O’Rourke or any future president sought to carry out the idea.

Earlier in the town hall, which was in Los Angeles, one of O’Rourke’s primary rivals, Cory Booker, did not go nearly as far in response to a similar question. Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, emphasized that there needs to be “consequences for discrimination” but repeatedly declined to say if he believed religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status over opposition to gay marriage.

O’Rourke released a plan for LGBTQ equality in June. Lemon cited it as he asked O’Rourke the question Thursday night, noting it said, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate.”

O’Rourke has previously targeted tax-exempt status for the National Rifle Association, calling for its revocation in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats that it served as a “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

Elizabeth Warren Hires Texas State Director

The Democratic presidential hopeful is the first non-Texan candidate to announce a hire in the state.

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Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has hired a Texas state director, the first such move by a non-Texan candidate in the primary.

The Warren campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that longtime Texas organizer Jenn Longoria will lead its efforts in the state, which holds its primary on Super Tuesday, or March 3. Longoria, a San Antonian who sits on the board of Battleground Texas, has extensive organizing experience in a range of races for everything from statewide office to city council.

Longoria has also worked for presidential campaigns, serving as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 run and as a full-time volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid.

Warren’s campaign is the second in the primary to announce a Texas state director. In early September, one of the candidates from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, named a Texas state director, Delilah Agho-Otoghile, as well as four other staffers dedicated to the state.

Some other campaigns have regional staffers, both based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on groups of states including Texas. For example, Pete Buttigieg has a regional organizing director, Michelle Hutchinson, who is based in Austin and oversees organizers working in Texas as well as other southwest states.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has risen in Texas primary polls as she has ascended nationally. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released early last month, Warren overtook O’Rourke for second place in the state, behind Joe Biden.

Warren has come to Texas four times this cycle, making her one of the more frequent visitors in the primary beyond O’Rourke and the other Texan in the race, Julían Castro. Her latest trip, which was in mid-September, featured an Austin rally where she was joined by Jessica Cisneros, the primary challenger to Laredo U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar who Warren had endorsed days earlier.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Austin

Austin Raises Metered Parking Rates Citywide

Austin Transportation will raise the base rate of all City of Austin metered, on-street parking spaces to $2-per-hour starting Monday, October 14, 2019.

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Starting Monday, October 14, 2019, Austin Transportation will implement the $2-per-hour citywide parking meter base rate City Council approved in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget. The new base rate will apply to all City of Austin metered, on-street parking spaces.

The City’s street parking system is designed to promote space turnover, which provides convenient short-term access to places of interest. However, at the current rates of $1.20 per hour in the downtown core and $1 per hour outside of it, Austin Transportation staff have routinely observed drivers exceeding parking time restrictions.

These observations align with those documented in the Downtown Austin Parking Strategy, released by the Downtown Austin Alliance in 2017. “The rates do not match the level of demand or patterns of behavior,” reads the report. “On-street prices are lower than off-street prices. There is a direct incentive for drivers to circle and hunt for the best deal.”

In order to reduce congestion, national best practices indicate that one to two parking spaces should be available at any time on any given block, minimizing the time that drivers spend circling in traffic in search of a nearby parking space. As parking usage is monitored quarterly, Austin Transportation may make incremental pricing adjustments to ensure that this goal is met.

“This rate modernization better represents the true value of street parking,” said Robert Spillar, Austin Transportation Director. “It also supports the City of Austin’s goals of providing more mobility options and reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips.” These goals are outlined in the Austin Strategic Direction 2023, the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, and the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which envisions at least 50 percent of commuters using modes other than single-occupancy vehicles by 2039.

Reducing drive-alone trips allows Austin Transportation to test and implement curb management strategies that promote equitable and flexible curb space access for all travel modes and public needs.

As an alternative to on-street parking, Austin Transportation launched its Affordable Parking Program in 2016 to make downtown off-street parking more accessible for people who work or regularly park downtown in the evenings, including service industry workers. This program has flourished and now has approximately 400 users, reducing evening demand for on-street parking by directing people to off-street spaces that would otherwise often be unused. There continue to be spaces available at rates that vary from $30 to $65 per month, and Austin Transportation encourages people to learn more about the program.

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