On Monday, January 13th, Louisiana State University and Clemson University will battle it out for the College Football Championship at the Superdome in New Orleans. While both universities are highly prestigious and both college football teams are at the top of their game, each come from states that fall short on protections, rights, and equality for the LGBT community. Here is a breakdown on each state and how friendly they are to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
When every state is ranked in order of having the most rights and protections, being the friendliest, and the safest, Louisiana sits at #39 and South Carolina ranks near the bottom at #48. California, Massachusetts and New York are all at the top, respectively. The bottom five (Georgia, Arkansas, S. Carolina, N. Carolina and Alabama) are all states that have a high percentage of religious influence in politics and lawmaking.
In Louisiana, there are hate crime laws that protect citizens based on their sexual orientation and perceived sexual orientation, but none that cover gender identity. New Orleans and Shreveport have laws that protect both orientation and identity, while cities like Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles only prohibit discrimination against public employees. For transgender citizens, Louisiana requires both medical treatment and a gender reassignment surgery before you can legally change your gender on a birth certificate.
Louisiana has a history of going back and forth when dealing with discrimination protections.
- 1992 — Governor Edwin Edwards signed a state executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation.
- 1996 — Governor Murphy J. Foster Jr. let the anti-discrimination executive order implemented by Edwards lapse.
- 2004 — Governor Kathleen Blanco reinstated the executive order by Edwards.
- 2008 — Governor Bobby Jindal let Blanco’s executive order expire without a renewal.
- 2016 — Governor John Bel Edwards reinstated the anti-discrimination provision and it is currently in effect today.
- 2017 — Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law legislation that repealed the words “opposite sex” from domestic violence statutes.
Public opinion in 2018 for LGBT rights (same-sex marriage, hate crime protections, anti-discrimination laws, equality protections) in Louisiana resulted in 67% support, 25% oppose, and 8% having no opinion.
While the entire state of Louisiana ranks in the bottom half of the country for LGBT rights, the city of New Orleans has skyrockets to the top of many polls for being one of the most friendly, fun, and inclusive places in America for LGBT citizens. New Orleans is home to some of the most prominent LGBT festivals in America such as Southern Decadence, Gay Easter Parade, and Saints and Sinners LGBT Literary Festival.
According to Senior Advice, the top 10 best cities in America to retire for gay and lesbian Americans are:
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- West Palm Beach, Florida
- Tuscon, Arizona
- Toledo, Ohio
- Alexandria, Virginia
- Tempe, Arizona
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Austin, Texas
- Dayton, Ohio
- Tampa, Florida
New Orleans ranks at the top for its many queer-friendly festivals, vast number of gay bars and businesses, and for scoring nearly perfect on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index in 2018.
Despite the progress being made in Louisiana, LGBT progress in South Carolina has been very slow to say the least. South Carolina is the only state in America that still does not include same-sex couples within a domestic violence statute. For transgender citizens, you do not need gender reassignment surgery to change your gender on your birth certificate, but you do need a court order. Cities like Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach and Richland County prohibit discrimination based on orientation and identity, and other cities like Columbia, Charleston and Latta only prohibit discrimination for city employees. While South Carolina has no official hate crime laws, hate crimes committed on the basis of orientation or identity are banned federally under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
- 2006 — South Carolina voted on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman, prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages.
- 2014 — U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel overturned South Carolina’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, making it legal to this day. The first marriage licenses were accepted on November 19th, 2014.
- 2016 — South Carolina introduced a law restricting transgender people access to public restrooms. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley publicly opposed the bill, calling it “unnecessary.”
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, public opinion of LGBT rights in South Carolina in 2017 resulted in 53% support, 37% oppose, and 10% unsure, with 67% of the general population of South Carolina supporting the idea of anti-discrimination laws covering orientation and identity.
Today, South Carolina still has laws that discriminate against gays in the areas of employment, housing, insurance, preventing gays and lesbians from adopting or fostering children, and transgender citizens are excluded from sports.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, from 2007 to 2014 Louisiana introduced more and more pro-LGBT bills each year; however, since 2015 only fourteen bills have been introduced, with zero introduced in 2018.
South Carolina has been pretty stagnant with only introducing a small number of bills each year. 2016 showed a surge with seventeen pro-LGBT bills introduced only only four being passed.
While the football game on Monday is sure to be quite a nail-biter, both Louisiana and South Carolina have a lot of work to do better-protecting their LGBT citizens. It is easy to write off states in the South as stereotypes of being “racist” or “intolerant” and therefore irredeemable, but this is 2020 and more and more progress is being made in all states every day. Whether some states lead the way and others lag behind, it is important to fight for change in all fifty states and not give up until states like Louisiana and South Carolina look much more like California, Massachusetts and New York. It’s an uphill battle, but we have done it before and there is nothing that says we can’t do it again.
About the Author:
Brian Moniz is from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner.