New study calls for greater state protections for LGBTQ+ Georgians

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Calls for greater protections for LGBTQ+ Georgians are mounting after a new study highlights the Peach State’s lack of basic anti-discrimination protections.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s State Equality Index, Georgia is considered one of 25 states categorized as “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.”

At the state level, no laws exist prohibiting unlawful discrimination for LGBTQ+ Georgians, even though various municipalities, like Savannah, have passed their own protections.

Georgia’s Commission on Equal Opportunity works to protect Georgians through their Equal Employment and Fair Housing divisions.

The Equal Employment Division ensures equal protections based on “race, sex, age, disability, national origin, color or relation.” Fair Housing ensures equal protections based on “race, sex, religion, disability, national origin, familial status or color.”

A June 2020 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court ensured employment protections for LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide, yet other protections are still unavailable at the state and federal level.

Board co-chair Dusty Church of the First City Pride Center says the “complete and total disinterest” in ensuring broader protections has been the biggest challenge at the state level.

“We want to see universally a significant approach to filling those gaps and creating more appropriate policies at the state level that make it easier for individuals to seek redress,” he said.

District 163 State Rep. Derek Mallow says he doesn’t think either chamber will introduce this type of legislation during this session, seeing the pressures the pandemic has presented for lawmakers.

However, he feels the best type of legislation would mirror that of Savannah’s unlawful discrimination ordinance.

“We need to not only just look at public accommodation but we also need to look at discrimination in prisons, jails and detention centers,” he said. “We also need to look at housing. We need to look at the workforce.”

Aside from a need for greater LGBTQ+ protections, Church says this type of protection needs to extend to private businesses.

“Gaps in non-discrimination protections impact our community,” he said. “When individuals have better opportunities when individuals have equal opportunities, then the economy benefits.”

See more of Georgia’s State Equality Index report here.

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