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California leads the nation in equality, report finds

WASHINGTON – California is one of 18 states in the U.S. that has explicit state-level workplace protections for all LGBT employees. It is also one of 36 states with marriage equality.

As such, California leads the nation in equality. The details can be found in the first national report assessing the status of state legislation affecting LGBT equality across America, including in California, issued by the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with the Equality Federation.

The inaugural State Equality Index reveals that, even with progress on marriage equality, there are extraordinary state-to-state disparities in LGBT non-discrimination protections, including in the workplace, and efforts continue by equality opponents to pass state-level legislation that would sanction discrimination and undermine even minimal existing protections.

"With 107 pro-equality laws passed in the last 10 years — many of them sponsored by Equality California — we are proud and gratified that California is the state with the strongest civil rights laws for LGBT people," said Rick Zbur, Equality California executive director. "But despite our steady progress and national leadership, all is not golden in the Golden State. Our community faces startling health and wellness disparities, including disproportionate rates of poverty, suicide, homelessness, violence and lack of insurance. And as the State Equality Index points out, critical LGBT health data is not being collected in California and LGBT people are not being counted in other ways either. So while we celebrate California's clear leadership, we also recommit ourselves to the considerable work that remains to be done."

“Despite historic progress on issues like marriage equality, a majority of states still struggle to reach even a basic level of equality for LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Most states lack statewide non-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people — putting countless individuals and families at risk, and creating inequalities in adoption and surrogacy, employments benefits, and youth safety and well-being.”

“Even worse,” Griffin said, “equality opponents continue to push deeply harmful laws forward, including those seeking to undermine critical protections in the guise of "religious liberty.”

Though same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states and Washington, D.C., more than 111 million people, or 35 percent of Americans, live in states that have marriage but where LGBT people are not fully protected from discrimination in the workplace. And more than 206 million people nationwide live in states where every LGBT person lacks fully-inclusive statewide workplace sexual orientation and gender identity protections.

While California has among the most comprehensive protections for LGBT people in the country, work continues to fully implement access to transgender healthcare for its residents and safe schools for LGBT students.

The SEI assesses states on their LGBT-related legislation and policies, good and bad, in six areas: relationship recognition, parenting laws and policies, non-discrimination laws, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying laws, and health and safety laws and policies. California falls into the highest-performing category “Working Toward Innovative Equality.”

The full report is available HERE and California's scorecard is on pages 52-53.