State lawmakers have proposed a record 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans this year, or more than three a day, with about half of them specifically targeting transgender people.
Nearly 670 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced since 2018, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, and nearly every legislature in all 50 states. country have weighed at least one bill.
Over that time, the annual number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced has skyrocketed from 41 bills in 2018 to 238 bills in less than three months to 2022. And this year’s tally is quickly ticking. to what some advocates have called “worst year in recent history for LGBTQ state legislative attacks”, when 191 bills were proposed last year.
The list of legislation includes measures that would restrict LGBTQ themes in school curricula, allow religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and limit the ability of transgender people to play sports, use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, and receive health care. affirm your gender.
Proponents of these bills say they are about protecting children, parental rights, religious freedom, or a combination of these. Opponents, however, argue that they are discriminatory and that it is more about winning political points with conservative voters than protecting voters.
“It is important that people pause and think about what is happening, especially in the context of health care, because what we are seeing is that the state should have the authority to declare a population of people so undesirable that their medical care they need to survive becomes a crime,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “What scarier intrusion from the state could there be?”
As the number of anti-LGBTQ bills reaches record highs, research shows there is also support for LGBTQ rights and policies that prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans, or 79%, support laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in work, housing and public places, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. poll released on Thursday. That same poll also found that nearly 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 54 percent in 2014.
LGBTQ advocates and political experts say the surge in state bills is driven less by public sentiment and more by lobbying on behalf of conservative and religious groups.
Activists say the groups have pushed for the legislation in response to a series of progressive victories, including two landmark Supreme Court rulings, one that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and another that won LGBTQ people nationally protection against discrimination in the workplace in 2020, and the election of President Joe Biden in 2020.
They also reason that the bills are part of a broader political strategy to use transgender people as “wedge problem” to motivate right-wing voters.
“Conservative politicians, conservative religious leaders, religious organizations and sometimes conservative academics often present themselves as defenders of traditional values and traditional institutions of society,” said Gabriele Magni, an assistant professor of political science. at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “LGBTQ rights have become a natural target because they go against one of the most traditional institutions of society, which is the family.”
NBC News’ analysis of data from the ACLU and Freedom for All Americans found that among anti-LGBTQ bills, measures targeting trans-Americans have increased significantly in recent years. For example, 22 of the 60 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed in 2019, or 37%, were anti-trans bills, compared to 153, or 80%, of the 191 anti-LGBTQ bills in 2021. This year, about 65 percent of the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced as of March 15 (154) were anti-trans bills.
“The authors of these bills and the black money groups that push them don’t want to make it possible to be a trans child in this country,” said Gillian Branstetter, a longtime trans advocate and press secretary for the advocacy group National Women’s Women. Law Center. “They are responding to trans children as if they were responding to a contagion.”
Anti-trans legislation—specifically, measures that would prevent trans students from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity—are among the most successful anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in recent years. Since the beginning of 2021, 11 states have signed trans sports bans into law, according to counts by the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
Advocates also point to the mental health risks facing trans youth and how anti-trans policies can exacerbate them.
A last year’s survey by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, found that 42% of the nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth surveyed, and more than half of trans and non-binary youth, seriously considered suicide during the last year. Separately, two-thirds of LGBTQ youth said debates over anti-trans legislation have had a negative impact on their mental health, according to a little survey The Trevor Project done in the fall.
The bills have not only affected trans people, but have also reshaped the lives of their families.
Balancing work as a small business owner, Lizette Trujillo, an Arizona mother, has spent the past three years meeting with trans advocates, traveling back and forth to her state Capitol in Phoenix, and “dropping everything” to fight on behalf of his 14-year-old daughter. old transgender son, Daniel.
“It’s exhausting, it’s painful and it’s something I have to prepare for every year, and I’m still in shock because I have to defend my son,” Trujillo said. “If they care about families the way they say they do, or if they care about children the way they say they do, they would leave us alone and give us a chance to take a breather to be the bored PTA parent. who organizes a fundraiser and can attend extracurricular activities”.
While this moment in LGBTQ rights has been “very dark,” as Branstetter put it, advocates have also had a number of victories.
Last month, a Republican state senator from Arizona broke with his party, blocking legislation that would have banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth. In neighboring Utah, Republican Governor Spencer Cox promised to veto legislation passed this month by the Legislature that would bar transgender student-athletes from competing in women’s sports. and last This week, Republicans in the Idaho Senate stopped a bill that would have made it a criminal offense for parents to allow their minor children to receive gender-affirming care.
but a directive issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott Last month he illustrated alternative avenues lawmakers can take to attack LGBTQ Americans when they can’t pass anti-LGBTQ bills through state legislatures.
Last year, the Texas Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have made it a felony, along with physical and sexual abuse, to provide gender-affirming care to minors. But instead of the law, Abbott last month ordered “licensed professionals” and “members of the general public” to report parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appears the minors are receiving affirmative care. of genre. Abbott’s tenure came shortly after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion stating that transitional care for minors is child abuse under state law.
In her opinion, Paxton argued that some transition-related health care causes “physical harm” to children, but the doctors say is compatible and considered medically necessary by the relevant accredited medical associations.
“It’s important to look at the cruelty of the governor’s order in Texas, because these bills act as an on-ramp to that level of cruelty against trans children,” Branstetter said. “There is a bottomless hunger for the misery of trans children.”
Trujillo said “this moment feels scarier” than years past, but that hasn’t stopped him from fighting the myriad of proposed policies in his state. Arizona has proposed the third-highest total of anti-LGBTQ bills so far this year, at 17, behind Iowa and Tennessee.
“This takes up a lot of my life, but I do it with the hope that when my son is an adult, he won’t have to do it himself, that he’ll be in a better place,” Trujillo said. “As much as I want to shrink, to protect my family and my son, I also feel like this is the time to speak up and say, ‘I won’t let you erase my son.'”