DemDaily: The Wave of Hate

April 6, 2023

The last two years have seen a deluge of anti-transgender legislation introduced in red states across the country, fueled by conservative lawmakers and religious groups intent on dehumanizing and denying recognition to transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people.

According to Trans Legislation Tracker, a watchdog group monitoring anti-trans efforts in legislatures, lawmakers across 47 states have introduced 492 anti-trans bills so far this yearup from 174 in all of 2022.

Of those proposed this year, 32 have passed, 43 have failed, and 417 are still active in their respective legislatures. Utah Governor Spencer Cox (R) has signed four anti-trans laws this year, the most of any state, while Texas legislators have introduced a staggering 57 such bills since their session began in January.

Transgender is commonly defined as "denoting or relating to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person’s sex assigned at birth." Simply put, some people's gender identity – their innate knowledge of who they are – is different from the male or female sex identification on their original birth certificate, so they identify as transgender. If your gender doesn’t conform to a "male" or "female" definition, you may identify as nonbinary.

This week, the legislative crusade reached a fever pitch.

Lawmakers in several Republican states are keen to replicate 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.

On Tuesday, Kansas legislators voted to prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identities, while also forbidding them from changing their names or genders on driver's licenses.

Although Governor Laura Kelly (D) is expected to veto the bill, the Legislature's GOP supermajority will likely override her as they did on Wednesday in passing the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, which bans transgender athletes from girls' and women's sports from kindergarten through college.

Also this week, Republican Governors Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Brad Little of Idaho signed legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors. The ACLU promptly filed a challenge to the Indiana bill, claiming it violates the US Constitution's equal protection guarantees.

At least 12 states have passed similar injunctions against gender-affirming care, which supports an individual’s gender identity through a range of services from counseling to hormone therapy.

North Dakota set a single-day record for anti-trans laws, advancing eight to Governor Doug Burgum's (R) office on Tuesday. Among those awaiting his signature is a bill criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors, imposing a Class B felonywhich carries a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment and a $20,000 fineon doctors who perform surgery on or prescribe hormone therapy to children.

In Arkansas, legislators on Wednesday sent a bill to Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders' (R) desk that would require parental approval for teachers to address transgender students by their preferred pronouns. Last month Sanders signed a law allowing recipients of gender-affirming care to sue their provider for malpractice well beyond current statutory limitations, with the goal of making malpractice insurance prohibitively expensive for healthcare workers who service transgender patients.

The first three of dozens of anti-trans bills moving rapidly through the Texas Legislature were approved by the State Senate this week: banning trans students from collegiate athletics; criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors; and prohibiting transgender youth from updating their birth certificate. All three are expected to sail through the State House along party lines and be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott (R).

Combating the right's anti-trans onslaught, Democratic lawmakers in over a dozen states have introduced legislation to protect the rights of trans people and their healthcare providers.

Colorado, Washington, Minnesota and Vermont's legislatures have all advanced "shield laws" or "trans health refuge" bills, which provide legal protection for patients seeking gender-affirming care from out of state and prevent officials from complying with arrests, extraditions, or subpoenas related to care an out-of-state trans person receives.

Illinois and California already have such protections enshrined into law. 20 states and Washington DC also currently allow people to update gender markers on identification without submitting medical documentation.

Transgender issues are also children's issues and healthcare issues. A March 20-23, 2023 NPR/PBS/Marist poll showed that 54% of Americans oppose laws that ban gender-affirming medical care for minors.

Conservative lawmakers are betting that their assault on gender and sexuality rights will resonate with voters and motivate their base at the polls, a gamble that may prove ill-advised.

The hard-right messaging employed in the 2022 midterms propelled radical candidates to victory in GOP primaries across the country, but cost Republicans the general election gains needed to secure Congress.

They appear eager to once again take that risk. The extent of the harm they inflict on the most vulnerable among us in the process remains to be seen.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: ACLU, Transgender Law Center, Planned Parenthood, WHO, North Dakota Legislature, Trans Legislation Tracker, Axios, New York Times

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