Wave of Discriminatory State Legislation Hits LGBTQ Immigrants Especially Hard

Posted on April 4, 2016 by Dani Marrero Hi – Organizer, Aqui Estamos RGV & Zenén Jaimes Pérez – Policy & Advocacy Analyst, United We Dream

Activist rally for the end of LGBTQ Immigrant Detention.
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Dozens of state legislatures across the country proposed and in some cases passed legislation meant to inflict serious harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities over the past couple of months. More than 175 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed so far this year in 32 states – ranging from bills to turn back the clock on marriage equality to allowing parents to subject their children to harmful conversion therapy.

Even more frightening, at least 30 bills have been filed to deny transgender people access to sex-segregated spaces consistent with their gender identity. In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory called a special legislative session to pass HB 2, a law that nullified local ordinances around the state that would have protected the LGBTQ community from discrimination and would force transgender people to use bathrooms not in line with their gender identity – potentially putting them in danger.

The wave of both anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant state legislation sweeping the country has left LGBTQ immigrant communities especially vulnerable. Immigrants know the great harm discriminatory laws have on communities. Late last year, North Carolina was also the center of the discriminatory HB 318 law that targeted the immigrant community in many ways, including limiting the availability and use of identification documents – a vital need for daily life.

Chart of states that provide protections to the LGBTQ community.
Source: Movement Advancement Project, Equality Maps

Even though marriage equality finally became a reality last year, LGBTQ immigrant communities still face a double onslaught of discrimination based on their multiple identities. In most states, it is still completely legal for an employer, housing provider, educator, and even bankers to discriminate someone simply because they are LGBTQ.

Indeed, a recent report showed that LGBTQ immigrants reported high levels of discrimination in their lives. Over a quarter of LGBTQ immigrants have faced discrimination in the workplace due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status and more than half of LGBTQ immigrants have faced discrimination, harassment, or violence at school for the same reason. Even with this high level of discrimination, nearly a majority of LGBTQ immigrants do not believe that either LGBTQ-serving and immigrant-serving organizations adequately address their needs.

Chart of the different types of discrimination that the LGBTQ community is vulnerable to.
Source: United We Dream (UWD) No More Closets Survey, January 2016

As an increasing number of LGBTQ immigrants live their lives openly, policymakers must ensure that they are protected from violence and discrimination. The recently passed North Carolina laws do nothing more than increase stigma against LGBTQ immigrants and push these communities into harmful environments. It’s time for both LGBTQ and immigrant communities to come together to stop these attacks.

Dani Marrero Hi is an Organizer for Aqui Estamos RGV and the Digital Content Fellow for United We Dream. Follow her @danimarr94. Zenen Jaimes Perez is the Policy & Advocacy Analyst for United We Dream. Follow him @zenenjaimes.

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