In news that will likely not shock anyone, more than 300,000 LGBTQ North Carolinians live in constant danger of discrimination thanks to serious gaps in state laws, a new analysis found. 

The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning founding member of the new Freedom & Opportunity For All coalition, said in a recently released report that about 319,000 queer people in North Carolina are without protections against discrimination. They also determined that 4.3 million women and 3.8 million people of color were in a similar situation.

The coalition is urging Republican Senator Richard Burr, who called HB 2 “too expansive,” to support the Equality Act as it moves through the U.S. Senate.

“We had good conversations with our Senator’s staff about the Equality Act, a bill that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation across key areas of life,” Ames Simmons, a Raleigh resident, said in a press statement. “Throughout our state, and throughout the country, many transgender people continue to face discrimination in their daily lives. I know Sen. Burr believes every North Carolinian has value, and we hope he will do the right thing and support the Equality Act.”

According to the report, most of the state’s failures are in the public sector such as housing, credit, and public accommodations. While the coalition focuses on LGBTQ rights, they note that current laws for public services also fail to include provisions against sex discrimination.

The Equality Act has already passed in the U.S. House and is currently awaiting action in the Senate. If passed, the bill would ensure that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which keeps the U.S. government from interfering with laws that people say are based on religious beliefs, couldn’t be used to violate civil rights laws. If it was approved by Congress, the Equality Act would decimate the chance for someone to discriminate against queer and trans people based on their religion. It would also align U.S. law more closely with the 2020 Supreme Court ruling that shut down discrimination based on sexuality and gender.

This isn’t the first time North Carolina has been called out for its dismal LGBTQ rights stances. A January study from the Human Rights Campaign—one of the organizations in the new coalition—found that the Tar Heel State’s poor track record on gay rights didn’t end with the sunset of HB 142’s gag rule. Although some communities have adopted nondiscrimination policies, there are none statewide—and the federal government still doesn’t have this provision on the books.

The Equality Act comes at an opportune time, given just how many state lawmakers (including ours) have introduced transphobic bills. Some protections have been filed by state Democrats, but the Republican-controlled General Assembly is unlikely to budge. Thankfully, there’s some hope at the federal level. 

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