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What TAG Accomplished in 2015
Nevada made some significant strides towards Transgender equality in 2015, while simultaneously defending against oppressive legislation. Utilizing HRC's Municipal Equality Index (MEI), with the advocacy of the Transgender Allies Group (TAG), the City of Reno became the first municipality in the state to specifically offer health insurance coverage of transition-related healthcare for city employees. We were able to expand these benefits statewide through Nevada's Public Employee Benefit Program, covering all four of plans available to state employees. This victory was only possible due many members of the board being familiar with the needs of healthcare coverage for transgender employees through outreach, advocacy, and resources such as HRC's equality indices. In June, after three years of our advocacy, the State's Insurance Commissioner published an insurance bulletin prohibiting the denial, exclusion, or limitation of medically necessary healthcare Services on the basis of gender identity or expression in all health insurance policies sold in Nevada. The City of Sparks, with prompting from TAG, changed their coverage to include the needs of transgender employees. Healthcare coverage for transgender people has seen a watershed year!
Nevada's Legislature meets for only 120 days, every other year, and 2015 marked the 78th Legislative session. An LBGTQ inclusive Anti-Bullying bill, sponsored by Governor Sandoval, enjoyed bi-partisan support and was passed and signed into law. A bill to protect youth from conversion therapy died in the Assembly after it was blocked by conservative committee chairmen. And we also saw a particularly nasty "Bathroom Surveillance Bill" drafted by known opposition groups from outside of the State approved in committee along party lines. The bill required public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their "biological sex...as determined at birth based on physical differences or, if necessary, at the chromosomal level," clearly targeting transgender students. After an intensive advocacy effort from HRC, TAG, ACLU-NV, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and other groups, just enough conservative Assembly members crossed party lines to narrowly defeat the bill on the Assembly floor.
The coming year will bring additional advancements for equality, though there are already obstacles being put in the way, particularly over the issue of school bathrooms. The effort needed to overcome such challenges becomes greater in the face of this resistance. Continued community support is needed continue with the work that is left to do.