Statehouses across the country are being flooded with anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Since 2015, the increases have been nearly exponential over the past few years. Year over year, anti-equality organizations and legislators shift their attack strategies, endlessly assaulting the LGBTQ+ community, with crueler, more devastating and targeted legislation.
While HRC has worked to defeat a remarkable 91% of these bills through the 2022 legislative season, the introduction of these bills alone, alongside the ensuing media coverage and hearings is damaging to the community. A vast number of the bills introduced so far are specifically targeting children, and especially focused on trans and non-binary kids. Recent research has shown a sharp drop in the mental health of LGBTQ+ teens, citing legislation attacking this group as a key factor in the dramatic decline.
How HRC Is Fighting Back. The good news is that the Human Rights Campaign is fighting back, stronger and harder and more effectively than ever… and it’s because of the strength of HRC’s members and supporters. Every team in the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation is engaged in this fight, bringing all of our power and resources to bear.
HRC’s policy lawyers review every piece of LGBTQ+ related legislation introduced in the states – currently 710+ bills so far – to determine their impact on the LGBTQ+ community.
HRC’s membership and development team is helping to educate our incredible membership and raise critical funds to fuel this fight.
HRC’s Foundation is providing critical research support to arm lobbyists and educate lawmakers on the real impact of these bills. The Foundation also assembled the Parents for Transgender Equality Council, which provides meaningful support to families with trans children and elevates their personal stories for the media and in crucial testimony at hearings in state capitals all across the country. The Foundation leverages our relationships with professional organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Education Associations, American Medical Association, and the National Association of Social Workers to oppose harmful bills.
HRC’s Communications & Marketing teams are bringing critical attention through the press and through social media channels.
HRC’s Field Organizers help elect pro-Equality candidates, and they’re working with pro-Equality legislators on beating back these harmful bills in committee and on the floor, and holding elected officials accountable for their votes on these bills. They’re organizing the community and ensuring that folks speak out about harmful legislation where they live. HRC has invested in full-time staff in key priority states to continue expanding and strengthening our presence and influence, which we can leverage in elections as well as in our state legislative work.
A great example of the power of HRC’s strategy is our recent win in Michigan. Through years of investment in grassroots organizing, on-the-ground presence and coalition building, we helped elect a pro-equality governor and the majority in both chambers of the legislature. Fully inclusive non-discrimination legislation was just signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday, March 16. This victory is born out of years of HRC's strategic work coming to fruition. We were also able to elect a pro-equality governor in Arizona who has helped stem the tide of harmful bills in that state. Gov. Hobbs’ chief of staff, Allie Bones, said in response to a recent bill on the House floor, “[t]he Governor was clear in her State of the State that it’s time to focus on real issues. Going after LGBTQ kids doesn’t fit the bill. I hope the Legislature doesn’t waste any more time on this, because it’s DOA.”
What’s At Stake
It is shaping up to be a historically bad year for state legislation; we expect that 2023 will set a new record for anti-LGBTQ legislation, and it already has more bills introduced that specifically target the transgender community than ever before. Overwhelmingly, these bills are targeting youth, especially transgender youth.
As we’ve seen in prior years, “bathroom bills” and “sports bans” continue to proliferate. These laws seek to force children to use school bathroom and locker room facilities that do not align with their gender identity, or prevent transgender students from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity (as transgender students have done across the country for decades). Shockingly dangerous and widespread introduction of bans on medically necessary, gender-affirming care pose incredible risk to trans children as well as their caregivers and the medical professionals involved in their treatment. In some states, the legislation goes so far as to criminalize treatment, making it a felony for guardians and health care professionals to treat trans children. Utah, South Dakota, and Mississippi are the latest states to have passed such laws.
Schools, which are supposed to be places of safety and learning, are increasingly censoring the content children are able to access, including banning books that contain any LGBTQ+ content (i.e., a character in a story is LGBTQ+). Despite the infamous backlash in Florida, more states seek to pass “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” laws to prohibit any acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ people or issues in classrooms. This would effectively mean that a child of same-sex parents wouldn’t be allowed to bring a family photo for show-and-tell.
Newer types of bills are spreading as well, including bills that would require educators to notify parents/guardians if a child confides in a teacher or guidance counselor that they might be LGBTQ+. In another affront to the dignity of trans and non-binary kids, some states seek to forbid educators from using pronouns different from the gender the child was assigned at birth.
In an effort to criminalize creative expression, many states are actively pursuing anti-drag bills. The legislation varies state-to-state — in some cases it’s categorizing any event that includes drag as “adult-only,” which would end drag storytimes and could prohibit bars and restaurants from hosting drag shows, because different licensing is required for adult-oriented entertainment.
We also continue to see evolving iterations of “religious refusal” bills which would empower medical professionals (doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs) to refuse to treat an LGBTQ+ person because doing so is in conflict with their “deeply held religious beliefs.” This is quite literally a life-or-death scenario.
The State of Equality
The HRC Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute recently released their ninth annual State Equality Index. The SEI is a comprehensive state-by-state report that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ+ people and their families. HRC also produces the Congressional Scorecard which rates legislators on their voting records and you can see how your state ranks on the state scorecards.
The Path Forward – Greater Than Hate
Through our Greater Than Hate initiative, we’re organizing nationwide and mobilizing pro-equality voices from all walks of life to: call out the dangerous attacks on our community, hold accountable anti-equality politicians, and bring to bear the collective people power of partner organizations and stop radical anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from becoming anti-LGBTQ laws.
Greater Than Hate is a cross-movement coalition in its initial stages of formation. This coalition will include partner organizations in racial justice, education, gun violence, and other movements. As the far-right continues it’s attemps to divide us and sow fear into our daily lives, this coalition serves as a vehicle to unite and conquer. It is one way HRC is bringing the fight for equality – one in which all of us are represented, in which all of us are beneficiaries. We look forward to sharing with you the work of this coalition.