“The 2020 legislative session was one of the most unusual in recent memory, given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the shortened sessions in many states, we saw multiple states pass pro-equality laws to protect the LGBTQ community,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement.
The 2020 State Equality Index report, which was released on Monday, assessed states’ LGBTQ-related laws and policies in an assortment of areas, including parenting, religious refusal, relationship recognition, non-discrimination, hate crimes and criminal justice, youth-related issues, health and safety.
“The Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 State Equality Index (SEI) covers what we saw last year and looks ahead to this year, highlighting the importance of proactive non-discrimination protections and other pro-equality legislation as LGBTQ people continue to be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” David said.
Maryland was one of 19 states and Washington, D.C., who were in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality. Those states include California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Washington, D.C.; Hawaii; Illinois; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Minnesota; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; Oregon; Rhode Island; Vermont; and Washington.
“These states have a broad range of protections to ensure equality for LGBTQ people, including comprehensive non-discrimination laws, safer school policies, and healthcare access for transgender people. Advocates focus on the implementation of laws and advance innovative legislation that addresses the needs of vulnerable populations” the report said.
Two states — Iowa and Virginia — were in the next lower category, “Solidifying Equality,” while four states — Kansas, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin — were in the category below that, “Building Equality.”
The lowest category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality,” includes 25 states: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Indiana; Kentucky; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carola; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; West Virginia; and Wyoming.
Despite Maryland’s high rating, the report found areas in which the state’s LGBTQ-related laws and policies came up short.
The report listed “anti-equality laws” in Maryland in the areas of HIV/AIDS criminalization and religious exemptions in non-discrimination laws related to both sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report also listed several “pro-equality laws” that are not present in Maryland, such as LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies, and laws prohibiting law enforcement officials from profiling LGBTQ+ individuals and individuals who are perceived to be LGBTQ+, among others.
The report scored Maryland’s LGBTQ-related laws well in many categories, such as second parent adoption, employment, housing and more.
But as Maryland’s rating as a state that is “working toward innovative equality” suggests, advocates are continuing to push for more equitable laws and policies for LGBTQ+ people.
“The State Equality Index tells the story of how advocates on the ground, in states across the country, achieved wins and battled tough opposition to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community. In a year of fighting the triple pandemics of coronavirus, police brutality and racism, state-based advocates continued to push back against anti-LGBTQ attacks and even secured some huge advancements for LGBTQ people,” Equality Federation Institute’s Executive Director Fran Hutchins said in a statement.”