Hate advances across the nation

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Florida's Anti-Trans Laws

A record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced 

Lawmakers in statehouses across the country continue to advance a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ bills. We are not even halfway through 2023, and America has seen more anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year than in each of the last five years.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, so far this year, over 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in the state legislatures. About half of those bills [210] specifically target transgender and non-binary people — which is a new record in itself.

“Right now, we are witnessing the highest number on record of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this early in any legislative session. We must consider the negative toll of these ugly public debates on youth mental health and well-being,” Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy & government affairs for The Trevor Project said in an early 2023 statement regarding the uptick in anti-LGBTQ policies. “LGBTQ young people are watching, and internalizing the anti-LGBTQ messages they see in the media and from their elected officials. And so are those that would do our community harm.”

While anti-LGBTQ legislation is surfacing in many states across the country, including Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Montana, the bulk of the bills appear to be coming from Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota and Florida. These states have been the most proactive in advancing anti-LGBTQ bills, pushing them closer to becoming enacted laws.

In North Dakota, five bills have already been enacted into law — HB 1254, HB 1249, HB 1489, HCR 3010 and HB 1139. All five of these bills attack the rights of transgender and nonbinary people, with bans on gender-affirming care for youth, bans on youth playing sports consistent with their gender identity, and more.

The state has another seven anti-LGBTQ bills in their final stages of legislation, which are currently on their way to the state governor for approval.

“It’s shameful, yet not surprising, that instead of spending their day attempting to tackle the real issues facing North Dakotans, extremist legislators in Bismarck were working vigorously to rile up the far fringes of their base — and now some of their most marginalized constituents could pay the price,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel of HRC said in a statement, reacting to North Dakota’s advancement of 10 anti-LGBTQ bills in a single day, April 4. “These 10 bills — the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills to pass a single legislative chamber in one day in modern history — have the sole aim of pushing LGBTQ+ people back into the closet.”

In Texas, there are a total of 52 anti-LGBTQ laws advancing, the American Civil Liberties Union reports. These bills range in subject from free speech and expression to civil rights. However, the main target of Texas’ anti-LGBTQ legislation focuses on school, education and transgender youth.

One Texas bill, HB 1686 (House version) and SB 14 (Senate version) seeks to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. This would include the ban of procedures related to gender transitioning, gender reassignment or gender dysphoria.

“These bills are a cruel and unconstitutional attack on transgender youth and an attempt to undermine the rights of parents and medical providers to make age-appropriate medical decisions. Signing them into law would cause harm to the very people certain politicians claim to protect,” Ash Hall, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas said in a statement regarding the bill. “HB 1686 and SB 14 would lead to devastating outcomes in both the physical and mental health of transgender youth by denying them access to the care they need, while still allowing the same drugs and treatments to be prescribed to non-transgender youth, the very definition of discrimination.”

In Tennessee, there are 26 anti-LGBTQ bills that have advanced. One bill, SB 841, was defeated. However, on March 2, two bills, HB 1 and HB 9, were enacted into law.

HB 1 and HB 9 impact both the transgender and non-binary community, as well as drag queen performers. HB 1, like Texas’ advancing HB 1686, and Florida’s strict SB 254, bans gender-affirming care for children under the age of 18. And HB 9 bans many drag performances from taking place on any public property in Tennessee, specifically in any location where children under 18 could be present.

“Shame on Governor Lee and the extremist legislators responsible for these discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Neither of these laws are about protecting youth — they are about spreading dangerous misinformation against the transgender community; they are about doubling down on efforts to attack drag artists and transgender youth,” HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement responding to the enactment of these laws. “Gender- affirming care is age-appropriate, medically necessary care that is only provided in consultation with doctors and the consent of parents. And drag is a longstanding, celebratory form of entertainment and a meaningful source of employment for many across the state.”

Tennessee has also just recently advanced another bill, SB 1237, which, somewhat similar to North Dakota bills HB 1249 and HB 1489, would allow private schools to prohibit transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. If enacted after consideration from the House, SB 1237 would be Tennessee’s fourth law restricting the ability of transgender students to participate in school sports.

“This law highlights just how out of the way the Legislature will now go simply to exclude and ostracize some children, robbing them of key lessons — about community, perseverance, self-worth — we say sports participation so effectively teaches & provides,” transgender activist and volunteer with the Tennessee Equality Project Dahron Johnson said in a statement regarding SB 1237. “In so doing, this law also provides evidence of the lengths to which legislation seeks to steal away any safe space, to remove any safe harbor, for transgender and gender-diverse children, and their families.”

So far this year, barely four months into 2023, 34 anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation have been enacted into law, 11 of which ban gender- affirming care. By the end of the 2022 legislative season, there were 29 enacted anti-LGBTQ laws, 17 of which impacted transgender and non-binary youth.

As of April 17, 2023, 17 anti-LGBTQ laws across the country are awaiting final approval from their state’s governor, potentially furthering the record-breaking year of anti-LGBTQ legislation.