DemDaily: Legislating Hate

June 5, 2023

Eight years after gay marriage was legalized in the US Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v Hodges, and six months after federal protections for that right were enshrined in the Respect for Marriage Act, the LGBTQ community is under extreme assault.

Ironically, as the nation celebrates "Pride Month" -- first officially recognized in 1999 by President Bill Clinton -- conservative lawmakers across the country are advancing hate legislation at an unprecedented pace.

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed this year, putting a bull's eye on the back of some of the most vulnerable among our fellow citizens.

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), more than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in the first half of 2023 -- more than twice the number of such legislation introduced in all of 2022. Of those, 74 discriminatory bills have been enacted into law.

Legislating Hate
At the forefront are bills targeting transgender and non-binary people, which stands at over 220 this year -- also a record. It is healthcare for transgender youth, however, that is most under siege.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) on Friday signed a bill that bans gender-affirming care and transition medical treatment for people under 18. The bill prohibits hormone and puberty-blocking treatments, as well as gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors. It also bans doctors from prescribing drugs that would induce infertility.

Sixteen states -- Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah -- have passed bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access medically necessary, best-practice health care.

Many of those also block funding to medical centers that offer gender-affirming care, and block Medicaid or other insurance coverage of healthcare for transgender people. Some even create criminal penalties for providing this care.

Education and regulating curriculum in public schools is also a major focus, with three states having followed Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron SeSantis' lead in passing the "Parental Rights in Education Act" in March -- and 16 states deliberating similar proposals. Otherwise known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the law restricts in-school discussions about gender identity and sexuality.

Following Iowa's March 22 passage of a bathroom bill that prohibits trans students and staff from using the bathroom of their gender identities in public schools, nine Republican-controlled states passed similar legislation.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) last week signed into law HB 261, which bars transgender students at public colleges and universities from competing in sports that align with their gender identities. The law limits teams and competitions to “biological male” and “biological female” athletes -- expanding on similar legislation for K-12 public schools that Ivey signed in 2021. 19 states have enacted similar anti-trans athlete legislation.

Other Anti-LGBTQ bills forbid transgender people from changing their names or genders on driver's licenses and weaken nondiscrimination laws by allowing employers, businesses, and hospitals to refuse service to LGBTQ people to restricting First Amendment rights to free speech, censoring books about LGBTQ people, and free expression by banning drag performances.

Over 25 bills across 14 states include provisions that allow teachers and fellow students to "deadname" -- meaning they refer to trans childen in school by their birthname in defiance of that student's chosen name.

Alabama, Iowa, Indiana and North Dakota now explicitly require school staff -- and in some cases, government or public employee -- to out transgender youth to their families,

In response to the right's anti-transgender onslaught, Democratic lawmakers in over a dozen states have passed legislation to protect the rights of trans people and their healthcare providers. Those include California, Colorado, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Minnesota.

Small Victories
On Friday, a federal judge in Tennessee struck down the state's first-in-the-nation law placing restrictions on drag shows as “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.”

In his 70-page ruling, US District Judge Thomas Parker, a Trump appointee, added that the statute encouraged “discriminatory enforcement” and that "no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit -- but not obscene -- speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech.”

Next Up
In December, 2022, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a gay rights case involving a Colorado graphic designer’s refusal to make same-sex-union websites. A decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, is expected in the coming weeks.

DemList will keep you informed.
Happy Pride Month!

DemDailyThe Wave of Hate 4/6/23
DemDailyRespectfully Protected. Marriage Equalty Prevails 12/9/22
DemDaily: Don't Say Gay 4/5/22

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, Translegislation, CNN, NPR, PBS. Movement Advancement Project

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