In the absence of robust nondiscrimination protections, these laws function as a license to discriminate rather than a good faith attempt to protect religious liberty and should be repealed. Human Rights Watch interviewed LGBT people, service providers, and advocates in states where religious exemptions recently have been enacted into law.
Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Another Arizona new law on homosexuality in japan states offer partial protections; New Hampshire and Wisconsin prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity, and Utah prohibits discrimination in employment and housing but not public accommodations.
The other 28 states lack statutory provisions that explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBT people. In states where LGBT people lack explicit nondiscrimination protections, broad exemptions serve to powerfully reinforce the idea that adoption and foster care agencies, healthcare providers, business owners, and service providers can refuse to serve LGBT people.
Even if people are not directly refused services, religious exemptions cause LGBT people to fear discrimination and deter them from seeking services. The laws addressed by Human Rights Watch help entrench and exacerbate a climate in which LGBT people already face mistreatment and barriers to their full and equal participation in the public sphere. While these laws are framed as protecting religious liberty, they are first and foremost a response to the advancement of LGBT equality — particularly the right to marry for same-sex couples.