Republicans are chipping away at LGBTQ rights in state legislatures across the country.
Republican state lawmakers are introducing bills across the nation that trample on the rights of LGBTQ people in the areas of health care, education, athletics, and more. They have already put forward at least 25 bills in state legislatures to clamp down on the rights of LGBTQ Americans — especially transgender youth.
The Republican-sponsored bills would make it harder for students to join LGBTQ school groups, restrict trans students from competing in school sports, and prohibit trans youth from receiving gender-affirming health care. Some of the bills would also force trans students to use bathrooms where they may face anti-trans harassment, bullying, and even sexual assault or result in them using single-occupant bathrooms that are inconvenient and single them out for being trans.
Republicans in state legislatures have already pre-filed or introduced 25 anti-LGBTQ bills to be considered this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Pre-filing means submitting a bill in advance of the upcoming legislative session. Additionally, 55 anti-LGBTQ bills that were first introduced in 2021 were transferred to the 2022 session.
In 2021, Republican state lawmakers broke the record for how many anti-LGBTQ bills became law by enacting 17 bills harming LGBTQ rights, according to the Human Rights Campaign. If they have their way, 2022 will be another record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Lawmakers in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, and Indiana have already pre-filed or introduced bills that would place restrictions on gender-affirming care for the 2022 legislative session.
A state Senate bill in Arizona would prohibit health care professionals from providing puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and gender-affirming surgery to trans youth. But as physicians have explained, bills that are designed to ban gender-affirming surgery for minors are aimed at a problem that doesn't exist, since it's very rare to have such a procedure at a young age.
Under the Arizona bill, health care professionals would face a Class 4 felony for providing what is considered age-appropriate care for many transgender young people. In addition to these other provisions, it also says that nurses, counselors, teachers, and administrators must out transgender minors to their families at private or public schools. Equality Arizona, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, wrote that while the bill may not pass in its current form, it still "contributes to a hostile climate for trans youth."
Last year, Arkansas passed a bill banning gender-affirming health care for young people, but a federal judge stopped it from going into effect.
Seven states — including Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, and Utah — have new bills that were pre-filed last year or introduced this year that would prohibit transgender athletes from playing sports for teams corresponding to their gender. A Kentucky bill introduced in the state House chamber on Jan. 4, would require sports teams to be designated based on "biological sex." It would also prohibit state agencies from investigating complaints about school policies that ban transgender students from playing on the sports team of their gender. It would also allow families to take legal action against schools that don't meet the bill's requirements.
In 2020, Idaho became the first state to pass a trans sports ban, but after civil rights groups filed a slew of lawsuits challenging the ban, a federal judge temporarily stopped the state law from being enforced. In 2021, nine states including West Virginia enacted similar trans sports bans. A federal judge stopped the West Virginia law from going into effect.
At least 10 new pieces of legislation are being considered across the country that would limit the content students are taught in school about LGBTQ people, their rights, and their history, according to the ACLU legislation tracker. Some of these bills could also harm gay-straight alliances and other groups that LGBTQ students and allies join to foster a more inclusive school environment for LGBTQ people. Legislators in Missouri, Arizona, and Kentucky have pre-filed for introduced bills for this session that limit the discussion of LGBTQ topics. A bill introduced in the Indiana House says that no student can be required to engage in sexual diversity training or counseling.
Legislation pre-filed in Arizona in December said that if a student wants to join a gay-straight alliance, their parent must give them written permission. Arizona Equality said that the language of the bill leaves out LGBTQ students and misrepresents subjects relating to LGBTQ people as inappropriate for school.
"It abstracts the real people – LGBTQ kids trying to make the most of their education – out of the equation altogether, making it into an argument about the 'topics' of a group or a club, with the implicit premise that those topics are objectionable," the group wrote about the legislation.
Other anti-LGBTQ bills being pushed by Republican lawmakers in 2022 include restrictions on transgender students' use of bathrooms and other facilities. An Oklahoma bill introduced on Jan. 3 would require that public school bathrooms and athletic changing rooms be "designated for exclusive use of the male sex" or "female sex," which they define as the student's sex assigned at birth. A similar bill was introduced in South Dakota on Jan. 2 that would allow students to pursue a civil lawsuit against a school if a "student of the opposite sex" is allowed to use the bathroom or changing room or the same sleeping accommodations in a public school or under a public school's authority. A bill with language very close to South Dakota's requirements passed the Tennessee Legislature and was signed into law by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in 2021.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.