Human Rights Campaign’s Annual State Equality Index Released. How Did Your State Rate?

Where should we look to see how America is progressing in regard to LGBT equality?  We recall the fight for Marriage Equality was a success at the national level, but first it was championed at the state level. As we hunger for LGBT equal protection at the national level, we once again can turn to the states to see if progress is being made that may lead to national success.   

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute released their 5th annual State Equality Index (SEI), a comprehensive report detailing statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families, and assessing how well states are protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.  Why not look at Florida first (see your state's rating here).

Florida’s LGBTQ Laws Rated in Human Rights Campaign’s Annual State Equality Index

A record number of pro-LGBTQ bills were introduced last year -- and 2019 prospects are encouraging.

Florida falls into the category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” Because there are currently no comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBTQ people at the federal level, the rights of millions of LGBTQ people and their families depend on which state they live in. In 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are. For this reason, the incoming pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has made the Equality Act -- a bill to establish comprehensive federal protections for LGBTQ people -- a top priority.

As civil rights organizations work toward passage of these critical federal protections, accelerating progress at the state level is critical. This year, the number of states that obtained the SEI’s highest rating, “Working Toward Innovative Equality,” increased from 13 to 17. These states currently have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the areas of credit and insurance.

This SEI report comes as more than 46 state legislatures have opened their sessions -- and with New York kicking off the year on a tremendous note by passing both the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” The Virginia State Senate has also passed legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And governors in Kansas, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ state employees.

The U.S. House is soon poised to begin considering the Equality Act, a historic bill that would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service. More than 130 major employers, with operations in all 50 states, have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, urging Congress to pass these crucial protections.

“The work of the HRC Foundation and programs like the State Equality Index, along with HRC's efforts day in and day out to advance protections for LGBTQ people at the state and federal level are vital to the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.”HRC and our partners on the ground defeated dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills last year, and worked to pass crucial pro-equality measures that ensure LGBTQ Americans are protected wherever they live. Already, we see the promise of even more protections passing in 2019 -- with action taken in New York, Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Griffin continued, “However, LGBTQ people still face the sobering reality that their rights are determined by which side of a state or city line they call home. As this year’s State Equality Index makes clear, the time has come for us to do away with this patchwork of state laws and to protect all LGBTQ people by passing the federal Equality Act.”

Said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida: “Florida continues to be a leader in the South for advancing LGBTQ equality, and the State Equality Index is the clearest metric we have for that progress. The State Equality Index also shows the importance of passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing statewide nondiscrimination protections.  This legislation would establish Florida as a state that is truly open to everyone to live, work, and play.”

Advancing LGBTQ nondiscriminaton protections at the state and federal level is supported by a wide swath of Americans. In fact, a recent PRRI survey found that 71 percent of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws like the Equality Act. An estimated 12 million LGBTQ Americans, their friends and families remain at risk of discrimination if they live in one of the 30 states without adequate protections. Florida is one of those 30 states in the country that lack explicit state-level protections for all LGBTQ people. A map of this patchwork of laws can be found here.

The SEI’s assessment of statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies in the areas of parenting laws and policies, religious refusal and relationship recognition laws, non-discrimination laws and policies, hate crime and criminal justice laws, youth-related laws and policies and health and safety laws and policies has placed each state in one of four distinct categories:

  • Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington
  • Four states are in the category “Solidifying Equality”: Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland and New Hampshire
  • Two states are in the category “Building Equality”: Utah, Wisconsin
  • Twenty-Eight states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming

This year’s SEI also details the onslaught of more than 100 anti-LGBTQ laws introduced across 29 states during the 2018 state legislative season, including proposals to grant sweeping licenses to discriminate, undercut marriage equality and target the transgender community -- including transgender children. HRC worked on the ground with local advocates and allies to defeat all but two of these bills.

The report also points to encouraging progress for LGBTQ youth, as well as transgender and gender non-conforming people seeking to update their identity documents. Last legislative session, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 1319 into law, protecting transgender individuals across the state from discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces. Additionally, a record five states -- Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire and Washington -- passed new protections against the practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” bringing the total number of states with such laws or regulations to 15, plus the District of Columbia. New York, which has had regulatory restrictions against the practice since 2016, kicked off its 2019 legislative session by enacting a law solidifying and expanding these protections.

HRC’s full State Equality Index report, including detailed scorecards for every state; a comprehensive review of 2018 state legislation; and a preview of the 2019 state legislative session is available online at www.hrc.org/sei.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Politician Calls Being Gay 'A Fashion Trend'

Australian politician Bob Katter told the media recently that being gay is merely ‘a fashion trend' in an effort to blame marriage equality for suddenly creating new wave of gay people, reports Newsweek.

Campaigning in the northwestern state of Queensland, the eccentric member of Parliament from northern Australia said, “In my whole life up to 50, I have never seen or heard of a homosexual person.”

A strange statement since the politician’s very own brother came out to him when he was 18-years-old.

Saying he “didn’t want to waste any time on it,” Katter declared, “Now, it’s fashionable, it’s just like a fashion trend.”

“Tomorrow there’ll be another fashion,” he added.

He also criticized anti-bullying campaigns calling them 'pro-homosexual.'

The 73-year-old has a history of mocking the gay community.

In 2014, he denied the existence of LGBTQ people in his electorate.

During the public campaign for same-sex marriage in 2017, he accused LGBTQ folks of ‘taking’ the word gay from the straight world.

He also made a strange ‘Jekyll/Hyde’ comment to the press saying “People are entitled to their sexual proclivities. Let there be a thousand blossoms bloom as far as I’m concerned.”

Then, in an odd twist of tone, added, “But I ain’t spending any time on it because in the mean time, every three months, a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in North Queensland.”



It probably won’t surprise you to learn that after years of being a member of Australia’s National Party, he separated himself from his colleagues and began his own, self-titled political party, Katter’s Australian Party.

(h/t Newsweek)

Same-Sex Couple Wed Just Minutes After Marriage Equality Came To Austria

Shortly after midnight today, two women in Velden, Austria, exchanged wedding vows becoming the first same-sex couple to officially marry as marriage equality came to the Alpine country.

After being engaged for four years, Daniela Paier and Nicole Kopaunik were wed early Tuesday morning after patiently waiting for same-sex marriage to become legal in their country.

Austria's constitutional court ruled in 2017 that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was discriminatory after years of challenges from LGBTQ rights groups.

Although same-sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships since 2010, marriage was still out of bounds.

The country’s governing parties, the People's Party and the Freedom Party, opposed marriage equality, but honored the court's ruling.

Five couples who filed the legal challenge to Austria’s marriage laws with the Supreme Court were granted special permission to wed early as part of the ruling.

A September 2018 poll for Österreich found that 74% of Austrians supported same-sex marriage and 26% were against.


(h/t Miami Herald)

Refusal to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage Prompts Couples to Sue Japanese Government

Same-sex couples are suing the Japanese government over failing to recognize marriage equality, according to Japan Times.

The ten couples expressed disappointment with the government's position on same-sex marriage as it actively ignores marriage equality under the law and freedom of marriage that is promised in the constitution. 

In Article 24 the Constitution, it says that “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.” There is some disagreement about the interpretation of the article, as the government says that it only refers to heterosexual couples, but legal scholars do not see it as a prohibition of same-sex marriage.

The government also says that using the terms "husband and wife" in civic law and family registration law indicates a man and a woman, and, as such, cannot accept same-sex marriage applications. 

Marriage equality has been increasingly more accepted around the world, with the Netherlands first legalizing it in 2001 which caused other European nations to legalize it as well. Outside of Europe, countries in North America have legalized same-sex marriage. Hopefully, the Japanese government will recognize that same-sex couples deserve the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples and that the constitution will be amended to allow marriage equality. 

h/t: Japan Times

LGBT Brazilians Rush To Wed Before New Year & Before Homophobic President Is Sworn In

It wasn't too long ago that we were sharing 'Why I'm Marrying My Partner Before Trump Can Take My Rights Away'

No one knows what the new presidency will hold when Trump and his advisors take over. Will it be a turning back of the clocks?  Is it all just hot air?  The questions right now outweigh the answers. 

Zach Brooke is not waiting for many of those questions to be answered.  He's taking matters into his own hands and is making changes before the Trump administration takes over.  He explains his actions in "Why I'm Marrying My Partner Before Trump Can Take My Rights Away."

No, Trump has not taken away our right to marry. Some will say 'yet', some say he won't be able to, others think Kavanaugh will be there for the assist.  It's all very debatable, but thinking back to where we were mentally in November and December of 2016, we know how the Brazilian LGBT community is going through right now. 

Brazil's incoming president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been unequivocal when it comes to his negative views about homosexuality. He takes office on Jan. 1.

Far-right Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro — once considered unelectable due, in part, to his long history of offensive comments — was elected on Oct. 28. The former military captain, who officially takes office on Jan. 1, has been unequivocal when it comes to his views on homosexuality. He has attributed homosexuality to drug use, compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia, advocated that parents beat being gay out of their children and once said he’d rather his son die in an accident than be gay. In 2013, he even admitted, “Yes, I am homophobic — and very proud of it.” - NBCNews.com

Was our panic n 2016 just the LGBT community worrying or was there a larger sign saying we should run to the courthouse and say our 'I DO's'?

Many in Brazil point to two distinct signs that LGBT citizens should worry.  The first would be the advice from Brazilian judge and president of the Brazilian Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Diversity, Maria Berenice Dias. She stated that couples need to highly consider getting married before the new president takes office because there was a risk rights could be taken away.

Julio Moreira, director of Grupo Arco-Iris, one of the oldest LGBTQ organizations in Brazil, 

Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 in Brazil based on a “judical understanding” by the country’s Supreme Court. Marriage equality is bases on interpretation of the Brazilian Constitution and not based on any federal law. Interpretations change.  Sound familiar?

The other not so subtle sign occurred two weeks before the election.

Bolsonaro signed a document in partnership with the conservative Catholic organization Voto Católico Brasil promising his commitment “to defend and promote the true meaning of matrimony: the union between a man and a woman.” Many have interpreted this as a sign that preventing same-sex marriages may be among his priorities while in office. - NBCNews.com

NBCNews caught up with Caique Paz, a corporate event planner based in São Paulo, who stated that there has been a national movement to assist same-sex couples to marry before the new year. 

Here's a post by Caique Paz on the Facebook page of Casa das Caldeiras, site of a multiple wedding ceremony just a week ago. 

Last Sunday, 16/12/2018, we celebrate the love of these couples in one of the most beautiful resistance acts i have ever seen. As many of you know, there was a large number of early marriages after guidance from the chairman of the special committee of the sexual and gender diversity of the Federal Council of OAB, Maria Berenice Dias, so that the couples couples would seek to ensure the right In the face of this, we created a network of countless people willing to make these marriages without pre-planning happen.

In the middle of all help to some couples, I contacted some spaces to help us and Katia from Casa das Caldeiras gave us a date to use the house. Then I called RafaellaBianca, I found Fernanda and Karinaand we started running after all the rest. Without each of these people none of this would have happened! I leave here my greatest respect, admiration, affection and gratitude for the universe having crossed our paths at the moment I and all those involved most needed after these last months.

And around 15 days, with the help of more people and professionals with a huge heart, we managed to perform this ceremony and make history in front of the scenario we live in. I still have no words to explain what we felt at that moment and much less to thank everyone who supported from the beginning, the collaborative vakinha and the presence in the day.

Will Jair Bolsonaro upset the path that marriage equality has been on since 2013?  Will he have the power to do so?  Will the courts bend to his homophobia?

Keep those wedding bells ringing as long as you can, Brazil.

h/t: NBCNews.com

Cuba Reverses On Marriage Equality After Evangelical Uproar

The government of Cuba announced Tuesday that the proposed constitutional Article 68, which would open the door for same-sex marriage in the island nation, has been removed from the latest draft of a new constitution.

Instinct previously reported that President Miguel Díaz-Canel has publicly supported legalizing marriage equality.

Cuba’s National Assembly announced the news in a series of tweets:



According to Emmy Award winning South Florida journalist Hatzel Vela, translated from Spanish the tweet read, "The [Constitutional] Commission proposes to defer the concept of marriage, meaning it will be taken out of the constitutional project, as a way to respect all opinions. Marriage is a social and jurisdictional institution. The law will define the rest of its elements."

Another tweet said, "The Family Code should establish who can engage in marriage." The Family code is scheduled to be updated shortly after the confirmation of the new constitution. 

The first draft of the new constitution was made public in July.



For months now, LGBTQ activists had worked towards eliminating the description of marriage as a union of a man and woman. Instead, the language would have been changed to the union of "two people with absolutely equal rights and obligations."

But, as the public debate continued, evangelical church leaders led protests at meetings on the new constitution. 

Vela pointed to another National Assembly tweet that said, “Article 68 was the one most discussed by the people in the popular consultation, in 66 percent of the meetings (of citizen debate).”

The final version of the new constitution is scheduled to be voted on by the National Assembly later this week in advance of a public referendum on February 24.

Former President Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro Espin, who has led to charge to legalize same-sex marriage, took to Facebook to say “there is no setback” and that the tweet from the National Assembly wasn’t accurate.

“There is no setback, the essence of Article 68 is maintained, the struggle continues, now let’s give the YES to the Constitution and then close ranks to achieve a Family Code as advanced as the new constitutional text,” she wrote according to Gay Star News. “Cuba is ours, Cuba belongs to everyone.”

However, The Washington Blade reports that several of the Cuban journalists and LGBT activists they communicate with on regular basis say “they face harassment and even arrest if they publicly criticize Mariela Castro and/or the Cuban government.”

(h/t WPLG, Gay Star News, Washington Blade)

What Is 'Dada Woof Papa Hot'? Chicagoans Will Soon Find Out.

On Thursday, About Face Theatre announced casting for its Chicago premiere of “Dada Woof Papa Hot,” written by Peter Parnell and directed by Jeff Award-nominated AFT artistic associate Keira Fromm.

The comedy about gay parenting and modern families has been around for just over three years, first coming to stage in October of 2015, just months after the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015. It's a celebration as well as an examination into the lives of two gay couples and their friends and how they all start the adventure of being parents in our modern world.

"Dada Woof Papa Hot is a funny and moving play about the challenges of modern day marriage and parenting," says Director Keira Fromm, "It's also a play about how becoming a parent impacts one's sense of identity and individuality. I love how the play reaches into contemporary married life and examines its difficulties for straight and gay people alike. The play takes place today in our post-marriage-equality moment where gay relationships and parenting have been normalized in our culture. The way it explores the unique problems that Alan and Rob (the central couple in the play) encounter while raising their young daughter in the wake of marriage equality makes for incredibly potent and compelling theater." (broadway.com)


It’s a fall night in New York City, and two couples who recently met at a parents group are out to dinner at the hot new restaurant. The foursome share photos of their kids, trade war stories from pre-school applications, and discuss their work. Alan and Rob, and Scott and Jason find plenty of common ground as gay couples raising kids in the city, and a play date with their children is set. - ltc.org


The play was in the Lincoln Center Theater back in 2015-2016 and the cast of DADA WOOF PAPA HOT talked about the show, their characters, and working on the new play.



DADA WOOF PAPA HOT, will play January 10 - February 16, 2019 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Ticket sales started on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at aboutfacetheatre.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 , or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. The press opening is Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 7:30 pm.

Well keep an eye out for more exciting LGBT involved plays. 

Do you have any recommendations of plays or musicals with LGBT content we and fellow readers should see? Tell us in the comments below or if you have a production that should be highlighted, send info to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com

Here's a montage of scenes from DADA WOOF PAPA HOT.



h/t:  chicagotribune.com, ltc.org, broadwayworld.com

Gay Couple Jakub & Dawid Get Engaged 100 Times To Question Polish Citizens

Jakub Kwiecinski and Dawid Mycek are back, and this time they’re getting engaged… 100 times.

Instinct Magazine has covered this Polish Lip Syncing Couple several times before. From when they made a tribute to George Michael, to when they got surprised at the International LGBTQ Awards Show, to when they got married in Portugal, and when they initially said goodbye to video making.

But, it looks like the boys are back again, and this time it’s to make a point about marriage equality.

Together, Jakub and Dawid staged 100 marriage proposals in Poland to gauge the public’s views on same-sex marriage. One would approach strangers with info that he was going to propose to his partner. He would then ask if the strangers would take a picture of the moment. Then, the strangers would find out the couple is gay once the other partner appeared.

The couple released a video showing how Polish citizens reacted to this setup. While most were positive and supportive, there were a few negative reactions to the situation.

For the strangers who stayed, Jakub and Dawid then asked for thoughts on marriage equality in Poland.

“I do not meddle with other people’s lives. Do what you want, but harm no one,” said one man.

“Poland should introduce same-sex marriage,” said another pedestrian.

Currently, same-sex marriage and civil unions are banned in the country due to Article 18 of the Polish Constitution stating that marriage is “a union of a man and a woman” that, “shall be placed under the protection of care of the Republic of Poland.”

But if attitudes are changing in the country, as Jakub and Dawid showed, perhaps that will change.

Taiwan To Create A Gay Unions Law Instead Of Legalizing Gay Marriage

The battle in Taiwan over marriage equality continues with another blow to the side for same-sex marriage.

After Taiwan’s Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Code’s definition of marriage being between a man and a woman was unconstitutional, the court told lawmakers to offer gay couples marriage. That said, they never specifically stated how they wanted lawmakers to enact this.

In the two years that lawmakers had to deliberate and stall, conservative groups led by anti-gay Christian mentalities pushed for a referendum and public vote. Unfortunately, that public vote resulted in a majority voting against gay marriage.

Now, politicians have decided how they will navigate these choppy waters to find a solution they think will appease both sides.



A post shared by Gay 18+ Confession (@gay18cfs) on

According to France24, Taiwanese lawmakers have decided on making a separate law for same-sex unions in order to respect the majority’s vote against updating the Civil Code.

William Lai of the Democratic Progressive Party announced the plan this past Thursday.

"We have to respect public opinion and abide by the referendum outcome. We have to revise a law other than the Civil Code, which is (to enact) a separate law," cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka told reporters.

"As for the characteristic of the separate law and what it will be called... we will propose a bill that reflects and meets public consensus," she added.

The plan was always for lawmakers to either update the Civil Code or create a separate law for gay marriage. That said, it looks like gay unions are now the goal and not marriage. In this vein, this separate marriage law could work much like the UK’s Civil Partnership Act.

No matter what though, everyone involved is concerned with bringing a state of peace on both sides. This is especially true after three gay citizens committed suicide after the referendum vote and a dozen more attempted the act.

"We hope the social turmoil can come to an end soon and cause no more division and harm to any more families," rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan said in a statement.

h/t: France24

Taiwan Votes Overwhelmingly To Not Amend Constitution For Marriage Equality

Results from LGBTQ referendums held on Nov. 24 in Taiwan are in, and by a disappointing lop-sided vote, the Civil Code will remain unchanged when it comes to legalizing same-sex marriage, reports The Taipei News.

As a result, the legal recognition of same-sex committed relationships will have to take place through the passing of new legislation. 

On Case 10, the people of Taiwan voted to maintain the definition of marriage in the Civil Code to be between a man and a woman by a lop-sided vote of 7,260,573 to 2,736,508.

Case 11, which asked whether “the Ministry of Education should not implement the Enforcement Rules for Gender Equality Education Act in elementary and middle schools,” also saw a defeat for the LGBTQ community as the ‘yes’ votes totaled 6,709,178 to 3,227,902.

Case 12 asked, “Do you agree to the protection of the rights of same-sex couples in co-habitation on a permanent basis in ways other than changing of the Civil Code?” Taiwanese voters were clear in saying they do believe in some kind of protections for LGBTQ couples voting 6,056,036 in the affirmative to 3,854,161 dissenting votes. 

Case 14 asked if voters wanted to change the Civil Code to offer same-sex marriage. Voters said no.

Case 15 asked if schools should teach all students about ‘gender equality, emotional education, sex education and same-sex education’. Again, voters said no.

Taiwan’s high court ruled in May 2017 that it was unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be banned from marriage, and gave the government two years to legalize it. Due to disagreements within Taiwan’s parliament, legislation to legalize same-sex marriage stalled.

Taiwan’s lawmakers have remained deadlocked on a solution with the main point of contention being whether same-sex marriage should be legalized through changes to the Civil Code, or via brand new legislation.

The more conservative factions of Taiwan don’t favor amending the Civil Code.

While LGBTQ advocates say a separate marriage law, similar to the UK’s Civil Partnership Act, would fail to provide equality.

Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom To Marry, which led to fight for marriage equality in the U.S. issued a statement, which read in part:

“Tonight, we send our support to advocates and families in Taiwan who are hurting after a disappointing election result. Over the last year, anti-LGBT organizations—bankrolled and instigated by US-based groups like the National Organization for Marriage—spent millions on scare tactics and deceit, in an effort to spread lies about gay and lesbian people and harm families.

“While the results of the referenda are not what we hoped for, it is clear that the movement for marriage in Taiwan will not be deterred. Nothing about tonight’s votes undermines the landmark court ruling affirming that the freedom to marry is a right guaranteed by Taiwan’s Constitution. And nothing changes the clear mandate from the Court: That by May 2019, lawmakers must update the civil code to allow same-sex couples to marry."



Last month, over 130,000 participants took part in Taiwan's Pride Parade, the largest LGBTQ celebration in Asia.

(h/t The Taipei News - image via TaipeiPride2018/Instagram)