The Full Scale of Anti-Trans, Anti-LGBTQ Bills in State Houses Will Shock You
Hundreds of anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ bills were tabled in state legislatures. Some passed, some failed, some were vetoed, some wait to be voted on—and some will return next session.
June typically means celebration in the LGBTQ community. From Pride marches to weddings, and the marking of milestones like the end of DOMA, marriage equality, and the Stonewall Riots, it is usually a rousing month.
But this year, COVID casts a lingering shadow—and that shadow has been lengthened by the relentless legislative attacks on young trans people, and LGBTQ people more generally, in state houses. The conservative-tilted Supreme Court is also due at any time to issue its opinion in the Fulton case, pitching LGBTQ equality and what the right wing cleaves to as “religious freedom” square against each other.
The Biden administration has passed pro-equality executive orders, and repealed Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military, but the Equality Act, which would enshrine LGBTQ rights and protections federally, still seems out of reach because of Republican opposition in the Senate. The Washington Blade has called the Equality Act “all but dead.”
And even though the Human Rights Campaign told The Daily Beast earlier in May that the Biden administration is gearing up to confront states on anti-trans legislation, perhaps in conjunction with its Justice Department, that has failed to materialize so far.
There have been more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 33 state legislatures this year across America, more than 120 have focused on restricting trans rights, particularly in healthcare and access to sports. 23 anti-LGBTQ bills have been passed into law. Anti-trans bills continue to progress in Wisconsin and Louisiana. Yesterday, the ACLU announced the first lawsuit against the legislation, focused on Arkansas.
“What happened was a coordinated attack on the most vulnerable among us: transgender youth,” Barbara Simon, head of news and campaigns at GLAAD, told The Daily Beast of this legislative session. “Lawmakers used misinformation to push and pass bills that put transgender children at risk, threatened their private medical care and restricted their access to play, a key way every child learns. All children benefit when all feel welcome and all can participate.
“GLAAD will continue to point to the truth: that every major medical organization supports affirming care for trans youth and their participation in sports.”
“Despite losing the public arguments on bathroom bills and trans people in the military, Republicans believe they've finally found the perfect anti-trans vehicle for the ballot box in 2022: attacking trans children,” transgender activist Charlotte Clymer told The Daily Beast. “Despite opposition from every major medical authority, the NCAA, prominent cis women athletes like Megan Rapinoe and Billie Jean King, and every reasonable adult who can clearly see there's no evidence to support their claims, Republican leaders are pressing on in their efforts to demonize trans kids. For them, it's all about cynically exploiting bigotry and fear of trans children to get a few more votes. And they will ultimately fail in this effort but not before trans children are hurt in the process.”
“State legislatures across the country are actively attacking our progress in the LGBTQ community—with their latest target being transgender people and youth,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first out LGBTQ politician elected to Congress, told The Daily Beast. “We have come too far to let the supporters of discrimination and opponents of equality win. We must pass the Equality Act in the Senate, and I will continue doing everything I can to protect the health and safety of the transgender community, so we can have a future where all Americans have the freedom of full equality.”
However, with dozens of bills still in the works and at least seven states with laws now on the books targeting transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming youth—as well as doctors and the cisgender straight parents who are raising them—Republicans from Maine to Florida and from Alabama to Alaska have turned 2021 into a year of hell for the transgender community. (To keep track of developments nationally, interested readers can access Legiscan, Transathlete, and Freedom for All Americans.)
“Anti-LGBTQ ideologues are attacking trans youth because they are desperate,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Daily Beast. “They went after us on marriage, and we lost a few battles, but eventually we won.
“Then they went after us on bathroom bans, and we lost a few battles, but eventually we won. Now they are going after us on sports bans, and we’re in the midst of a tough fight, but eventually we will win. Support for trans people is growing. Our opposition knows it. Trans people at NCTE and around the country are organizing and sharing our stories like never before, and that’s how we will win. We’ve done it before, and we will do it again.”
“It has been frustrating and painful to see the attacks on our trans and non-binary siblings, especially youth. But the way that our young people and their families and allies have stood up to attempts to discriminate against them in sports and access to healthcare has been extraordinary to watch and support,” said Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Perhaps the worst part of this legislative onslaught is that it was aided and abetted by propaganda drawn from the diatribes distributed by outspoken cisgender straight and lesbian athletes who claimed they didn’t favor discrimination. They only want to “protect girls’ and women’s sports,” groups like Save Women’s Sports and the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group say.
WSPWG co-founder Martina Navratilova once called it “cheating” for transgender girls to compete against cisgender athletes; even though she recanted and apologized, lawmakers like Florida State Rep. Traci Koster, a Republican, quoted Navratilova to get her state’s anti-trans bill passed. It’s now awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Once signed, Florida will be added to 2021’s swath of seven trans ban states:
Arkansas: On April 6, Arkansas became the first state in the U.S. to ban trans affirming health care (now then subject of a just-announced ACLU lawsuit). Governor Asa Hutchinson also signed Senate Bill 354 into law on March 25, preventing trans girls and women from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. Hutchinson also signed a law allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a law whose opponents believe will be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.
South Dakota: The ban on trans girls came via executive orders signed by South Dakota Gov. Kirsti Noem (R) after a rough-and-tumble showdown with GOP lawmakers who accused her of trying to water-down legislative language and bowing to corporate pressure.
Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a record five anti-trans bills into law:
1. HB 1233 denies transgender students access to the school bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity and provides means for a student, parent or employee to sue a Tennessee school “for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered” if they share space with a trans person in a restroom or locker room;
2. HB 1182 is a bathroom bill that requires businesses to erect signs warning patrons that they may encounter trans people in public bathrooms, a law that is the first of its kind in the U.S. Nashville’s DA said yesterday the city would not enforce the law.
3. SB 228 is a ban on transgender student-athletes;
4. SB 1229 is an anti-LGBTQ education bill;
5. SB 126 bans doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment to prepubescent minors.
West Virginia: On April 28, Gov. Jim Justice signed HB 3293, which will ban all transgender athletes in middle school, high school, and college from women’s sports across the state. But when asked by MSNBC to provide an example of a trans child trying to compete with cisgender athletes in his state, Justice was unable to name even one.
There’s also Idaho, which enacted 2 anti-trans laws in March 2020, one of which is now being decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Southern Calif.
“As we approach Pride month, it’s already been a heartbreaking and record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation, and specifically legislation seeking to ban transgender youth from playing sports,” Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally, told The Daily Beast. “The power of sport changes lives by teaching youth invaluable lessons about teamwork, discipline and goal-setting, and is a mental and physical health outlet. Transgender youth across the country deserve this same access and opportunity.”
A review of these anti-trans measures yields three things almost all have in common: A claim by lawmakers to be acting in defense of girls and women, the use of the word “biological” and the total absence of the word “transgender” or even “trans.”
The first indicates a misogynist, chauvinist and sexist view that girls and women are helpless, weak or are simply not competitive. The second borrows a trope utilized by anti-transgender groups which seek to divide and “other” trans Americans by refusing to use terms like “cisgender,” and instead brand trans girls “biological males” and cis girls as “biological females.”
Biology is a lot more complex than these lawmakers comprehend. And by refusing to even identify the target of these bills as “transgender,” they seek to invalidate and erase trans children and young women from society. Also of note: Most of the legislation exempts trans boys and young trans men.
An assault that is far from over
As we countdown to the end of May and look forward to June, there are another 25 states with bills still in the works across America, including those with defeated bills that could come back from the dead:
1. Alaska Republican State Senator Shelley Hughes reintroduced a bill to ban transgender athletes from school sports, SB 140, in the waning days of the legislative session. Its fate remains unclear as lawmakers are now engaged in the first of two, 30-day special sessions.
Like bills all across the country, this measure would limit girls’ and women’s sports to “biological females” and designate all sports as either male, female or co-ed. The first special session is already underway, with a second session set to begin in August.
2. Arizona’s SB 1511 targets health care professionals who offer gender-affirming care, from medication to surgery, classifying them as felonies. The current legislative session adjourns May 31.
3. Georgia’s legislative session ended in April, and with it so did four bills that aimed to block life-saving resources and educational opportunities to trans youth. Each of these failed to move forward in the state legislature: HB 276 would have banned transgender girls from playing on female sports teams both at the K-12 level and in collegiate athletics and would have allowed cisgender athletes to sue their school district if they are forced to compete against a trans girl in school sports.
SB 266—The “Save Girls Sports Act”—and HB 372 were similar measures but slightly more limited in scope than HB 276. The fourth bill, HB 401, would have criminalized doctors who provide gender-affirming care to trans youth.
Republican State Rep. Ginny Ehrhar proposed charging medical providers with a felony for offering treatments like hormones and puberty blockers to minors under the age of 18. None of these bills survived this session, but could come back again when the legislature reconvenes in January.
4. Hawaii’s HB 1304 “prohibits biologically born males from competing in any athletic program offered by a public high school that is designated for women or girls.” This bill died in committee. The legislature wrapped-up in April and won’t reconvene until January 2022.
5. Illinois lawmakers are targeting trans student-athletes with HB 4082, which not only designates sports as female, male and co-ed, but requires public and private schools to verify a “student's biological sex, as ascertained at or before birth in accordance with the student's genetics and reproductive biology.” The bill is currently in the hands of the rules committee and hasn’t advanced to a hearing or a vote. The session ends May 31.
6. Indiana Republican State Rep. Bruce Border sponsored two of three vicious measures targeting trans people: HB 1458 would have prevented trans people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates except for typographical or clerical errors. The other, HB 1456, would have made entering a restroom “not consistent with the gender assigned at birth” a misdemeanor.
Republican State Rep. John Jacob sponsored HB 1505 to outlaw minors from undergoing a gender transition and to prevent medical providers from offering them gender-affirming care. Indiana’s legislature went into recess in April and is set to reconvene in November.
7. Iowa did not pass an anti-trans sports bill, HF 184, which would have required schools obtain documentation from a physician verifying a student-athlete’s internal and external reproductive anatomy, normal, endogenously produced levels of testosterone and an analysis of the student’s genetic makeup if their gender identity was in doubt. Iowa’s legislative session ended May 21, but a special session is expected to be held no later than August.
8. Louisiana Republicans have been considering SB 156, a bill banning all but “biological females” from participating in girls’ school sports, kindergarten through high school. The state house rejected a nearly-identical bill, among others targeting transgender rights, but this senate bill appears headed to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is on the record as opposing the measure.
Republicans will need to muster two-thirds’ support in both chambers to overcome his anticipated veto. Louisiana’s legislature meets until June 10.
9. Maine lawmakers are considering two bills banning trans girls from competing in school sports, which the presidents of Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby colleges have joined forces to oppose. The legislature is in session through June 16.
10. Michigan’s legislative session runs until Dec. 31, and on the docket is SB 218, a bill banning both transgender girls from girls’ school sports teams and trans boys from competing with cisgender boys. The measure calls for student-athletes to be identified according to their “biological sex,” which the bill defines as "the physical condition of being male or female as determined by an individual’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth." The bill does not address collegiate sports.
11. Minnesota’s lawmakers went home mid-May, but not before considering four anti-trans bills, one of which was called the most terrible of 2021. HF 350 made it illegal for any school to allow males to participate in sports designed for women and girls. It’s similar to S 96.
HF 352 is a bill not only aimed at restricting girls’ and women’s sports to “students of the female sex,” but it mandates any girl whose sex is in dispute must present a doctor’s statement that verifies the student's internal and external reproductive anatomy; naturally occurring level of testosterone; and an analysis of the student's chromosomes.
HF 1657 was the most frightening. Chris Mosier’s Transathlete.com says the bill “would criminalize children who are trans who play sports with their peers—we’re talking jail & fines for kids using locker rooms & playing sports.” Mosier and other advocates took action to ensure this and the other three bills did not cleared committee during the regular session, but lawmakers return in mid-June for a special session, so there’s still a danger of passage.
12. Missouri’s legislative session also ended in mid-May, but lawmakers are expected to come back for at least two special sessions on a tax to help pay for Medicaid and for congressional redistricting, among other issues. That could include three anti-trans bills: SB 503 not only bans “students of the male sex, as assigned at birth” from competing in girls’ and women’s school sports at all levels, it also protects schools that provide separate teams for “students of the female sex” and provides a legal recourse for students denied athletic opportunities if the act is violated.
HR 56 restricts students to compete in school sports based on the sex on their birth certificates. HB 1077 establishes that students who take part in sports at publicly-funded secondary schools can do so according to the “biological sex” listed on their birth certificates.
13. New Hampshire lawmakers are considering HB 198, which bans “biological males” from high school and college sports that are “designated for females, women, or girls based upon biological birth.” The legislature is in session through June.
14. New Jersey has its own Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, S 3540, which is worded exactly the same as New Hampshire’s bill. Garden State lawmakers remain in session through January 2022.
15. New Mexico’s legislative session ended in March, but not before the state representatives considered HB 304, the Women’s Sports Protection Act. The name is different but like so many other bills, it limited school sports to three divisions: male, men’s or boys; female, girls’ or women’s; and co-ed. “Biological males” are banned from sports for females, girls and women. HB 304 died in committee. A special session has come and gone and the legislature does not reconvene until January 2022.
16. North Carolina still has one of two anti-trans bills under consideration as the legislature remains in session through July 2: NC H358, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” ensures that “women are not forced to compete against men on women’s sports teams.” The bill says “reproductive biology and genetics at birth” determines a student’s eligibility to participate in public school sports.
The other bill, NC S514, “the Youth Health Protection Act,” would have banned affirming health care for trans people under the age of 21, including puberty blockers and surgeries. The bill also would have required any “government agent” to report, in writing, to a minor’s guardian if they witnessed “symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender noncomformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, a Republican, told reporters in a statement the bill will not get a vote this year. But one other troublesome bill is still in the offing: NC S515, “the Health Care Heroes Conscience Protection Act.”
This measure would give health care workers a license to discriminate against trans or other patients they feel will violate their personal ethics or moral code, or in the words of the bill, “the right not to participate in or pay for any health care service which violates his, her, or its conscience.”
17. North Dakota wrapped up its legislative session in April having failed to override the governor’s veto of its lone anti-trans bill, HB 1298. Elections will be held in 2022 and the state assembly won’t reconvene until January 2023.
18. Ohio has until Dec. 31 to vote on the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” HB 61, which like all its similarly-named bills establishes male, female and co-ed sports and bans student athletes of “the male sex” from competing in girls’ and women’s sports. There’s also a similar bill in the state senate, SB 132, which also requires schools to obtain a doctor’s verification of a student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; normal endogenously produced level of testosterone; and an analysis of the student's genetics to prove they are female when their sex is questioned. Both bills are in committees.
19. Oklahoma state Republican Rep. Toni Hasenback made a last-minute switcheroo in April to change SB 2, an unrelated school finance bill, to include language from SB 331, a bill that died earlier this year, banning trans girls and women from competing in girls’ and women’s school sports. The legislature is convened until May 28.
20. Pennsylvania’s House is considering HB972, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which would specify school sports in higher education and public schools be designated either for males, females or co-ed. The current legislative session does not expire until Dec. 31.
21. Rhode Island’s lawmakers meet until June 30, and are considering S0638, “the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which establishes male, female and co-ed categories. If there’s any doubt as a female student athlete’s sex, the bill requires that public schools obtain a doctor’s verification of her sex by examining the student's internal and external reproductive anatomy; normal endogenously produced level of testosterone; and an analysis of the student's genetics.
22. South Carolina’s legislature wrapped-up in mid-May but is set to reconvene for two special sessions, one in June and another this fall. Its version of the Save Women’s Sports Act, SB 531, bans “students of the male sex” from middle school and high school sports for girls’ and women. House Republicans narrowly voted to throw out two “companion bills,” H3477 and H4153.
23. Tennessee earned its reputation as a “state of hate” by enacting five of 12 anti-LGBTQ bills this year, and has one more on the calendar for the 2022 legislative session: HB 0578 would outlaw gender-affirming healthcare for trans teenagers. Although this year’s session ended in early May, a special session is anticipated this fall.
24. Texas House lawmakers were expected to engage in debate Tuesday on a bill passed by the State Senate, SB 29, restricting transgender students’ participation in school sports. But midnight came, the House adjourned, and SB 29 died—for now. The legislative session continues through May 31, so campaigners remain watchful.
Another anti-trans bill, HB 1399, prohibiting “procedures and treatments for gender transitioning, gender reassignment, or gender dysphoria,” missed a key deadline Sunday, dooming its chances this legislative session. Another bill that would have banned gender-affirming care also failed to gain traction in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives, along with another bill just like it, SB 1646.
25. Wisconsin lawmakers are in session through Dec. 31, and have no fewer than four anti-trans bills to consider. Two will be the subject of hearings this week: AB 196 would ban trans women and girls from girls’ and women’s sports teams in K-12 public schools; private schools that participate in Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded voucher program would be required to divide all sports teams by sex and officially bar any student who was designated male at birth from girls’ teams.
A second bill, AB 195, would require the same policies at University of Wisconsin System schools and state technical colleges for women’s teams. The State Senate has similar bills, SB 322 and SB 323, respectively.
“Kids shouldn’t have to fight this hard just to be kids”
There have been some victories, even if they were short-lived. Here are the four states where anti-trans bills were vetoed:
· Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vetoed HB 1570, a bill to ban gender transition surgeries and hormone supplements for anyone under 18, but the legislature overrode his veto and the ban is set to take effect this summer.
· Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed SB 208, a bill that would have banned “males” from taking part in girls’ and women’s sports, redefined sports as only for males, females and co-ed and established a checklist of how schools from kindergarten through college would “verify the student’s biological sex.” Republicans tried but failed to override Kelly’s veto.
· North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, vetoed HB 1298, which would have banned trans girls and women from competing in girls’ and women’s school sports. The vote to override the veto came up short.
· South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem “effectively vetoed” SB 1217, a bill that would have banned trans girls and women from girls’ and women’s sports, but then signed executive orders requiring girls provide a birth certificate verifying their sex before they can play sports in public schools and recommending colleges and universities enact bans on trans athletes.
Despite the relentless battery of the bills, advocates remain focused.
“There has been an extremely callous and calculated effort this year to target transgender youth, and the laws that have passed are already causing inexcusable harm,” said Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders. “We won’t leave young people vulnerable, so the fights against these bills will continue in every venue. But we have also seen incredible transgender young people, their families, friends and allies all across the country speak out this year.
“Kids shouldn’t have to fight this hard just to be kids, but through their powerful stories more and more people are coming to see how misguided these bills are. We’ve seen shifts already in the handful of vetoes and the legislatures that have stopped these proposals, and I expect that understanding will continue to grow.”
"We’ve all seen how LGBTQ+ kids—especially transgender kids—have been under attack in states across the country,” said Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, at a PFLAG Parent Day event on Sunday. “This is unacceptable, it’s heartbreaking, it’s wrong, and it must stop now."
All those things he said are true, except there are no signs whatsoever that this onslaught is over.