Health Care

Record number of anti-LGBTQ bills hit legislatures

The unprecedented rush of legislation is one of the defining characteristics of red-state governance across the nation this year.
FILE – Trans-rights activists protest outside the House chamber at the state Capitol before the State of the State address in Oklahoma City on Feb. 6, 2023. A bill that would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison for a medical professional to provide gender affirming medical treatment for those under the age of 18 cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Governors in Indiana and Idaho have signed bills banning physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, while similar bills passed state Senates in Florida, Texas and North Dakota.

The Kansas legislature overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of legislation barring transgender athletes from school sports leagues that conform to their gender identity. Lawmakers in Kansas and Arkansas approved bills barring transgender people from bathrooms that conform to their gender identity.

State Houses in Florida and Iowa approved bills barring schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity through the eighth grade and sixth grade, respectively.

And that was only this week.

Lawmakers have introduced a record number of bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ individuals this year, an unprecedented rush of legislation that has become one of the defining characteristics of red-state governance across the nation.

At least 451 bills that restrict, limit or remove rights for LGBTQ people have been introduced in 45 states, according to a database maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union. That figure is greater than the number of bills that have targeted LGBTQ people in the previous five years combined, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News.

Twenty-five of those bills have already been passed into law. More than 350 remain alive, at varying stages of the legislative process.

“This year has been unprecedented in its fast, furious and coordinated attacks against LGBTQ people broadly, and anti-transgender rhetoric in the U.S. has garnered significant traction within media, schools, statehouses and newly enacted legislation,” wrote the Movement Advancement Project, a pro-LGBTQ think tank.

Indiana and Idaho join eight other states — Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota and Utah — where lawmakers have voted to ban gender-affirming care for minors this year. Alabama and Arizona banned such care in 2022, while Arkansas lawmakers approved a ban in 2021.

Executive orders in place in Florida and Texas limit gender-affirming care for minors, according to a report by The Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law. Those orders are likely to be replaced by legislation this year.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has signed five separate pieces of legislation targeting LGBTQ individuals into law, including measures prohibiting people from changing their gender markers on identification cards and birth certificates, limiting school instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation, banning gender-affirming care for youth and requiring schools to inform parents if their child asks to be called by different pronouns.

In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) has signed four measures seeking to limit LGBTQ rights, including one of the nation’s first bills restricting access to drag performances. Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia lawmakers have all approved multiple bills this year.

LGBTQ rights groups have raged against the cascade of legislation, which many see as the foundations for a broader legal challenge meant to roll back the right to marry, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. Those groups are particularly incensed by the bans on gender-affirming care, which they see as government intrusion into private medical decisions.

“Personal medical decisions should be made between patients, their doctors and their families, not by politicians,” said Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, which works to prevent LGBTQ suicide.

Many of the measures passed this year are likely to be tied up in court. Courts have already blocked bans on transgender athletes in sports that conform to their gender identity in three states. The ACLU announced plans Wednesday to sue Indiana and Idaho over gender-affirming care bans.

“No child should be cut off from the medical care they need or denied their fundamental right to be themselves — but this law would do both,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU’s Indiana chapter. “We’re suing to stop this cruel and unconstitutional law from taking effect and inflicting further harm on these children and their families.”