The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in partnership with the Equality Federation, has released the newest edition of the State Equality Index, the most comprehensive survey of state-level commitment to LGBTQ equality.
“The State Equality Index tells us where we have been and sets the course for where we want to go,” said Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Last year was the most damaging and destructive legislative session we have ever seen for the LGBTQ+ community – particularly transgender youth. This year, sadly, we expect more of the same. But these attacks are out of touch with the American people – and they are a losing political strategy. We are the majority, and we will not stop until we are setting new records in support of LGBTQ+ people in every corner of the country.”
The SEI assesses statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies in the areas of parenting, religious refusal and relationship recognition, non-discrimination, hate crime and criminal justice, youth, and health and safety, and places each state in one of four categories: the highest-rated “Working Toward Innovative Equality,” in which 20 states were placed; “Solidifying Equality,” in which five states were placed; “Building Equality,” in which two states were placed, and the lowest-rated “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality,” in which 23 states, including Georgia, were placed.
Georgia received no full marks in any of the nine categories, receiving only partial credit for employment protections and enumerated school anti-bullying policies and no credit for gender marker updates on identification documents, anti-conversion therapy, public accommodations, transgender healthcare, education, housing, and hate crimes. Furthermore, Georgia was found to have several anti-LGBTQ laws on the books, including sodomy laws, HIV/AIDS criminalization laws, transgender exclusions in sports, school laws that criminalize youth, transgender exclusions in state Medicaid coverage, and bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
Nationwide, fewer states than ever fell into the “Solidifying Equality” and “Building Equality” categories, and bills restricting healthcare for not just transgender youth but for transgender adults have also been introduced and passed for the first time. In 2023, 253 pro-equality bills were introduced and 50 signed into law, most of which protected health and safety, while 571 anti-equality bills were introduced and 77 signed into law, most of which targeted LGBTQ youth.
“Opponents of equality don’t want the world to see what they’re doing—and they certainly don’t want it to be named discrimination,” the report reads. “That is, nonetheless, what it is. And yet a year filled with heartache was also a year in which a multi-decade effort to include LGBTQ+ protections in Michigan’s non-discrimination law finally triumphed. 50 pro-equality bills passed this year. Progress is not linear, and setbacks are as common as they are devastating. And yet, we fight on—we fight on knowing that history, popular opinion, and justice are on our side.”