Rhode Island Celebrates Passage of Important LGBTQ Equality Bills
Legislature Passes Bills to Reduce Discrimination in Housing and Ensure Access to Restrooms in Public Buildings
June 24, 2021 (PROVIDENCE) – Community advocates celebrated the passage of important bills at the end of Pride month that will increase housing security and reduce threats of harassment and violence in public spaces for LGBTQ Rhode Islanders.
H6125/S563, lead sponsored by Rep. Ajello and Sen. Kallman, removes outdated language from the definition of sexual orientation in Rhode Island’s civil rights laws addressing housing, employment and public accommodations and repeals exemptions that allowed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression for smaller housing units, which make up a large percentage of housing stock in the state.
H5741/S755 (the Gender Inclusive Restroom Act), lead sponsored by Rep. Edwards and Sen. Murray, ensures that all single-stall restrooms in public buildings be labeled as accessible for use by any gender and requires that all new or substantially renovated government buildings have at least one single user restroom available.
“For many people, restrooms present a very real chance to encounter harassment, ridicule, or violence. In Rhode Island, gender identity and expression are protected under the law, but our lived realities can make these vulnerable spaces uncomfortable or dangerous. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Edwards and Sen. Murray on the Gender Inclusive Restroom Act, our state is taking a necessary step toward remedying this problem.” – said Ethan Huckel, TGI-Network Rhode Island
“Access to housing is a critical need for all people. Research shows that LGBTQ people experience high rates of discrimination in housing, which exacerbates poverty and places substantial strains on an individual’s health, safety and wellbeing. By removing the exemptions in the Fair Housing Act for smaller housing units, this legislation will open an important source of housing to LGBTQ community members and reduce housing insecurity. We’re grateful to Speaker Shekarchi, the committee chairs in both the House and Senate, and all the legislators who recognized this bill will make Rhode Island a more fair state.” – said Patience Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
“Rhode Island is taking an important step in ensuring fair and equal access to housing for LGBTQ people. Allowing an exemption from anti-discrimination law on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in housing is harmful and creates additional barriers for people who already face challenges in accessing housing. We’re grateful to Rep. Ajello and Sen. Kallman for their leadership in championing this critical bill” – said Denise Crooks, LGBTQ Action Rhode Island
“The passage of the Gender Inclusive Restroom Act means that individual bathrooms will simply be able to serve individuals who need them, without regard to gender. As the mother of a non-binary person, this legislation means knowing my child won’t have to avoid public spaces, fearing they will be harassed, assaulted, or threatened in the bathroom.” – said Wendy Becker, LGBTQ Action Rhode Island
The community is also heralding the passage of a third bill this week that ends the General Assembly’s role in deciding who may solemnize a marriage, a process that has provided legislators the opportunity to use a procedural vote to express their disapproval of marriage equality by voting against officiant requests from same-gender couples.
An Act Relating to Domestic Relations – Solemnization of Marriages, introduced by Senate Majority Leader McCaffrey and Representative Kazarian, and passed by both chambers, removes the General Assembly’s role and allows the governor to designate any adult individual to solemnize a marriage.