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Utah ranks in top half of states in HRC State Equality Index

Utah, called one of the reddest states in the nation, ranks in the top half of LGBTQ equality in the newly released 2019 Human Rights Campaign State Equality Index. According to the report, 17 states and Washington D.C. are innovating equality, three are solidifying equality, Utah and Wisconsin are building equality and the remaining 28 states need to place high priority to achieve basic equality.

The SEI is a “comprehensive state-by-state report that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families,” a statement by HRC states. “The SEI rates all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in six areas of law and assigns the states to one of four distinct categories.”

According to the report, “The SEI’s assessment of statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies in the areas of parenting laws and policies, religious refusal and relationship recognition laws, non-discrimination laws and policies, hate crime and criminal justice laws, youth-related laws and policies and health and safety laws and policies has placed each state in one of four distinct categories:

  • Seventeen states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”: California, Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Illinois; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; Oregon; Rhode Island; Vermont; and Washington
  • Three states are in the category “Solidifying Equality”: Hawaii; Iowa; and New Hampshire
  • Two states are in the category “Building Equality”: Utah and Wisconsin
  • Twenty-Eight states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”: 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 report says Utah has successfully passed laws protecting LGBTQ parents in surrogacy laws, foster parent training, and parental presumption for same-sex couples. It lacks laws guaranteeing second parent adoption, foster care non-discrimination, insemination consent, and de facto parent recognition. Negative laws that other states have that Utah does not include those that would prohibit surrogacy for same-sex couples and laws permitting discrimination in adoption and foster placement.

In criminal justice and hate crime legislation, Utah is credited for its hate crime law that enumerates LGBTQ people, but lacks laws that make hate crime statistic gathering mandatory, eliminate panic defense for criminal acts, or prohibit profiling by law enforcement. It notes that Utah’s sodomy law is no longer on the books but a law that criminalizes HIV/AIDS transmission does exist.

Non-discrimination laws in employment, housing, adoption exist in Utah that provide protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity, though in foster care, only sexual orientation is specified. Colleges and universities have non-discrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, and a policy for state employees exists. Lacking are laws against discrimination in public accommodations, education, insurance, credit, and jury selection. Negative laws that Utah does not have include restrictions on allowing municipalities to enact non-discrimination laws.

Utah also has not directly approved legislation such as a “Freedom Restoration Act,” religious exemptions for professional training and practice, nor a “First Amendment Defense Act,” all of which provide religious organizations to discriminate.

For youth, Utah has three of four listed anti-bullying laws, a school suicide prevention policy, inclusion of transgender youth in sports and an LGBTQ inclusive juvenile justice policy. The newly-enacted protection from conversion therapy is not shown in the report, as it was enacted in January of this year. Lacking protections include specific laws addressing LGBTQ homelessness and inclusive sex education.

No health and safety laws are noted by the report.

Equality Utah is excited about the results for the state in the Index.

“Last year we improved our standing by passing an enumerated hate crimes law and striking our anti-sodomy statute,” leaders posted in social media. “Our recent ban on conversion therapy will be reflected in next year’s index.”

The group hopes to reach the next level this year, and asks for support to do so.

“Let’s continue working together so that we can jump to the next level of ‘Solidifying Equality’ in 2021,” EU wrote.

The full report is available at hrc.org/campaigns/state-equality-index.

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