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More than 100 bills target LGBTQ rights so far in 2023


The bills continue to limit health care to minors for the reaffirmation of their sex, while other recent regulations target drag performers.

By Jo Yurcaba -

NBC News

More than 100 bills targeting LGBTQ rights and


life — from transgender health care to drag performances — have been introduced in 22 states so far in 2023, leading activists to hope that this year set a new record for anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

Texas has led the way with 36 such bills, according to Equality Texas, a state LGBTQ advocacy group.

Missouri follows with 26, North Dakota with eight and Oklahoma with six. 

Most of these approximately 120 bills focus on transgender youth, continuing a trend that began about two years ago.

In the past three years, 18 states have banned transgender student athletes from competing on school sports teams that match their gender identity rather than the sex they were assigned at birth, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank. .

Four states - Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Arizona - have enacted restrictions on gender-affirming health care for minors, though federal judges have blocked their enforcement in Arkansas and Alabama.

Members of the Texas House of Representatives with family and guests on January 10, 2023, at the opening of the 88th Texas Legislative Session.

Eric Gay/AP

This year, lawmakers in at least three states have introduced bills to restrict transgender girls and women from playing on women's sports teams, and lawmakers in at least 11 states have proposed bills that would restrict gender-affirming health care. gender for minors 

For the third year in a row, efforts to restrict LGBTQ rights and


life have been on the rise, according to Chase Strangio, deputy director of the American Civil Liberty Union's LGBT and HIV Project.

Strangio, one of the attorneys representing transgender youth and their parents in their lawsuit against Arkansas' ban on gender-affirming health care, said he expected the number of anti-LGBTQ bills filed this year to outnumber those introduced last year, when more than 340 such bills reached state legislatures, according to an estimate by the Human Rights Campaign. 

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She said her biggest concern is more states restricting access to gender-affirming health care and, if the composition of Congress turns more conservative in 2024, a possible federal ban.

“The shift to the right in the state legislatures is really scary,” he said.

“We are witnessing a continuous erosion and efforts to restrict and limit bodily autonomy in all areas.

There are a lot of things that I think people are taking for granted, particularly people who live in states like New York and California and aren't paying attention to what's happening in states like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas," she stated.

Markus Thurman speaks during a press conference for supporters of gender-affirming care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 19, 2022.Nicole Hester/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

One bill of particular concern to transgender advocates is an Oklahoma proposal that would ban transition care not just for minors, but for anyone under the age of 26.

It would also prohibit Medicaid from covering such care.

State Sen. David Bullard, the Republican sponsor of the bill, told The Oklahoman that gender-affirming health care is a "permanent change in the body that cannot be reversed."

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“At 21 you can drink, but at the end of the day, if you decide to quit alcohol, you can quit alcohol,” Bullard told The Oklahoman.

“But with this operation there is no going back.

We just want to make sure that the brain is fully developed before allowing this kind of surgery, which is permanent," he said.

Bullard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Reputable medical associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association—have supported gender-affirming care for minors. 

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Activists and doctors who care for transgender youth have claimed that many of the health restrictions proposed by state legislators misrepresent gender-affirming care.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), a non-profit professional and educational organization dedicated to transgender health, strongly discourages medical intervention before puberty. 

Before puberty, trans youth can make a social transition, that is, change their name, pronoun, and clothes.

For some transgender youth, going through puberty with the sex they were assigned at birth can have a negative effect on their mental health, which is why WPATH recommends puberty-blocking medications in early puberty (Tanner stage 2). ), which temporarily stops puberty, or hormone therapy at the same stage, but only if they meet a list of criteria.

Gender reaffirmation surgery in minors, even after puberty, is rare.

[Texas Republican lawmakers seek to “remove trans people from public life” with two bills]

A new panoply of bills targeting drag performers has also emerged, likely in response to increased protests over the past year against children attending drag brunches or Drag Story Hour, a national program launched in 2015 in which performers drag read books to children in libraries, schools and bookstores.

Bills introduced in Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia would ban minors from attending drag shows and would seek to classify any business that hosts drag performances as cabaret or "sexually oriented business."

Tennessee state Sen. Jack Johnson, a Republican who introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for “male or female impersonators who put on performances that appeal to prurient interest” to perform in public places or in front of minors, told WSMV- TV, an NBC affiliate in Nashville, which had received complaints from its constituents about drag shows. 

Molly Gormley, Johnson's press secretary, said the bill is "aimed at protecting children from being exposed to sexually explicit drag shows or other performances inappropriate for children."

“It is similar to laws that prohibit children from going to a strip club or that prohibit public nudity,” Gormley said in an email.

“This is a common sense measure and it is not anti-drag or anti-transgender.

This is about protecting children,” she added.

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Jace Wilder, education officer for the Tennessee Equality Project, described the climate for LGBTQ people in the state as "vicious." 

In the past two years, the state has passed both a law that prohibits trans student athletes from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity, and a law that prohibits gender-affirming health care for children before they are born. puberty, although medical intervention is not recommended for prepubescent youth.

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Johnson's bill, which is one of four LGBTQ-related bills proposed in Tennessee for the current legislative session, would classify drag performances as adult cabaret.

A similar bill in Arizona would require businesses that host drag performers to qualify as adult performance venues.

It defines a drag performer as “a person who dresses in clothing and uses makeup and other physical markers opposite to the gender of the person at birth to exaggerate gender roles and signifiers and engages in singing, dancing, or a monologue or skit with in order to entertain an audience”.

Wilder asserted that the language of many of these bills, including those proposed in Arizona and Tennessee, is so broad that it not only includes drag performers, but also "targets anyone who is gender non-conforming or diverse gender”. 

Demonstration of the LGBTQ collective in Buenos Aires, Argentina.Mariana Nedelcu / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The bills feel like a “throwback” to decades-old cross-dressing laws, Wilder said, where “you could cross the street and someone would define that as sexual presence and they could get you pulled over for 'impersonating another'.” gender".

"Our biggest concern is, honestly, how are we going to get out of this safe?" he said.

Florida legislation has already made people feel unsafe, according to Brandon Wolf, press secretary for Equality Florida, a state LGBTQ advocacy group.

He specifically cited the Parental Rights in Education Act (dubbed the “Don't Say Gay” bill by critics), which bans classroom instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate to the students in accordance with state standards."

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“We have more than 9,000 teachers openings in Florida, in part because of the smears they have been subjected to in recent years,” Wolf said.

“Young people tell us that they are very afraid.

They are afraid that school is no longer safe for them, and their families wonder if they will have to leave Florida to raise their children in a state that respects them and treats them with dignity."

Rachel Hill, director of government affairs for Equality Texas, said lawmakers in her state have introduced 36 anti-LGBTQ bills so far, more than were proposed during the entire 2021 legislative session. 

Two years ago, Texas considered more than 50 bills targeting trans people during its regular legislative session and three special sessions, and all but one -- a ban on trans athletes -- failed to become law. 

Although the state did not hold a legislative session last year (the Texas Legislature only meets every two years), Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state child protective services agency to investigate any allegations by parents providing gender-affirming care to their minor children as child maltreatment.

Some of those investigations have been blocked due to two lawsuits, but the threat of investigation has led many families with trans children to leave the state. 

But those who have decided to stay are "thrilled," Hill said, echoing similar sentiments from advocates in other states. 

"In any case, we feel defiant," he said.

"Although we are facing probably the toughest legislative session we have ever faced in Texas, we are prepared to face it."

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-01-15

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