U.S.

Amazon's 2nd HQ: Does a Lack of LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws Put These States at a Disadvantage?

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The Amazon Fulfilment Centre prepares for Black Friday on November 25, 2015 in Hemel Hempstead, England. Hundreds of cities across North America have been narrowed down to just 20, all vying to be Amazon's second home—but a lack of LGBT anti-discrimination law could put some of them at a disadvantage. Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Hundreds of cities across North America have been narrowed down to just 20, all vying to be Amazon's second home—but a lack of LGBT anti-discrimination laws could put some of them at a disadvantage.

The winner of Amazon’s second headquarters, HQ2, will get tens of thousands of jobs and a huge lift to their local economy. One potential setback for some of the more conservative states, like Texas, Atlanta and Ohio among them, is that they’re wrought with a lack of protections for LGBT people.

Amazon has been a big proponent for the LGBT community, and said they’re looking for a city that is a “cultural fit” to the company. Amazon declined to comment to Newsweek.

Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s top executive, signed a letter calling bills that discriminate against transgender people “bad for our employees and bad for business.” The company also joined a coalition of businesses backing a federal anti-discrimination bill to protect LGBT people. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was one of the largest financial backers of the fight for marriage equality, and was given a National Equality Award from LGBT rights organization the Human Rights Campaign. The award “recognizes the outstanding efforts of those who publicly stand up for the LGBTQ community, committing their time and energy to improve the lives of LGBTQ people and advance equality for all Americans.”

This is making some states worry.

Grant Stancliff, the communications director for Equality Ohio, said he’s seen legislation for LGBT protections speed through the state legislature for the first time in a decade, in an attempt to attract Amazon.

“One thing that people are gonna think about is why a gay person would choose Ohio over the coasts?” Stancliff told Newsweek, adding that while Columbus has protections set up for LGBT people, the state of Ohio does not. “You could lose your civil rights on your daily commute.”

And Ohio isn’t the only state considering Amazon’s HQ2 as it handles legislation.

Byron Cook, a Republican state representative in Texas, opposed a bill that would require transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender they were assigned at birth, because he was worried Amazon wouldn’t take the state seriously if they passed it.

“Will Amazon seriously consider any of the Texas cities competing for Amazon’s second headquarters?” Cook wrote in an op-ed for the Austin American-Statesman in September. “Probably not, unless Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick take the bathroom bill off the table for future legislative sessions. Even in a state as large as Texas, we can’t continue to hide this controversial elephant in the room.”

In Georgia, the Republican Governor Nathan Deal, vetoed a "religious liberty" bill that would give religious organizations in Georgia the ability to legally deny services to LGBT people. And the governor’s top aide, Chris Riley, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he vetoed it in an attempt to land Amazon’s second headquarters.

So where do these 20 finalists land on LGBT rights? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Atlanta — Georgia has few statewide protections for LGBT people, and is far behind other states.
     
  • Austin, Texas — The main statewide protection in Texas is a state law that addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation only. There are few other statewide protections for LGBT people, and it is far behind other states.
     
  • Boston — Massachusetts has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, second-parent adoption, transgender healthcare, gender marker change on identification documents, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others.
     
  • Chicago — Illinois has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, second-parent adoption, gender marker change on identification documents, are anti-conversion therapy, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others. It also, however, has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Columbus, Ohio — Ohio has few statewide protections for LGBT people, and is far behind other states.
     
  • Dallas — The main statewide protection in Texas is a state law that addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation only. There are few other statewide protections for LGBT people, and it is far behind other states.
     
  • Denver — Colorado has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, second-parent adoption, transgender healthcare, gender marker change on identification documents, are anti-conversion therapy, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others. It also, however, has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Indianapolis — The main statewide protection in Indiana is a policy that allows gender marker changes on drivers licenses only. There are few other statewide protections for LGBT people, and it is far behind other states. Indiana also has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Los Angeles — California has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, second-parent adoption, transgender healthcare, gender marker change on identification documents, are anti-conversion therapy, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others.
     
  • Miami — The main statewide protection in Florida is a state law that addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation only. There are few other statewide protections for LGBT people, and it is far behind other states. Florida also has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Montgomery County, Maryland — Maryland has non-discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, along with anti-bullying laws, transgender healthcare, gender marker change on identification documents, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others. The state also, however, has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Nashville — Tennessee has few statewide protections for LGBT people, and is far behind other states.
     
  • Newark — New Jersey has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, second-parent adoption, gender marker change on identification documents, are anti-conversion therapy, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others. The state also, however, has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • New York — New York has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, second-parent adoption, transgender healthcare, gender marker change on identification documents, are anti-conversion therapy, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others.
     
  • Northern Virginia — The main statewide protection in Virginia is a policy that allows gender marker changes on drivers licenses only. There are few other statewide protections for LGBT people, and it is far behind other states.
     
  • Philadelphia — Pennsylvania has second-parent adoption, transgender healthcare and gender marker changes on identification documents, among others. The state also, however, has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Pittsburgh — Pennsylvania has second-parent adoption, transgender healthcare and gender marker changes on identification documents, among others. The state also, however, has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Raleigh, North Carolina — The main statewide protection in North Carolina is an anti-bullying policy that provides specific protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are few other statewide protections for LGBT people, and it is far behind other states. North Carolina also has a law that criminalizes behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission, effectively criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS.
     
  • Washington — Washington has non-discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education, along with anti-bullying laws, transgender healthcare, gender marker change on identification documents, and has a law addressing hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among others.
     
  • Toronto was also nominated, but since the city is in Canada, an accurate comparison cannot be made to U.S. cities. Canada is, however, known as a strong supporter of LGBT-rights.
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