With More than 75 Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills Signed Into Law In State Legislatures this Year — More Than Double Last Year — HRC President Kelley Robinson Tells Senate Panel It’s Time to Make LGBTQ+ Protections Consistent and Explicit Across the Country
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, as leaders in the U.S. House and Senate plan to reintroduce the Equality Act — historic federal legislation that would ensure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people everywhere — Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson called for its swift and urgent passage, telling members of a Senate panel that “LGBTQ+ people of the United States of America are living in a state of emergency.” Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people, Robinson said that HRC officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. for the first time in its more than 40-year history following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year.
HRC President Kelley Robinson said the following during her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
“More than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced this year in the states. More than 220 of those bills target the transgender community—many targeting our children specifically. And more than 75 of those anti-LGBTQ+ bills have now become law. This includes laws that ban books and censor curriculum in the classroom; forbid children from being able to safely use the bathroom at school; and criminalize doctors for providing live-saving, gender-affirming healthcare. The purpose of these laws is to facilitate a rise in political extremism by alienating and isolating LGBTQ+ Americans, and the impact of these laws is alarming.
“Today, Senators Merkley, Baldwin, and Booker and Representative Takano will introduce the Equality Act — which would make protections for LGBTQ+ Americans consistent and explicit across our nation. It has been nearly a decade since this bill was first introduced. In that time, LGBTQ+ members of the military have served openly, marriage equality has been codified in federal law, and more LGBTQ+ Members of Congress have been elected than ever before. Furthermore, today more than 8 in 10 Americans support comprehensive nondiscrimination laws for LBGTQ+ people. It is time for Congress to catch up with our country and pass the Equality Act.”
The Equality Act: Consistent and Explicit Protections for LGBTQ+ People
The sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ measures has spawned a dizzying patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have created increasingly hostile and dangerous environments for LGBTQ+ people, resulting in inconsistent laws from state to state that fail to guarantee universal protections against discrimination. With nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people having reported experiencing discrimination in their personal lives, the Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life — including housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
The Equality Act has broad public support, across party lines, geographies and religious affiliations. According to PRRI, 8 in 10 Americans favor comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, including 90 percent of Democrats, 82% of Independents and 66% of Republicans.
Without protections, millions of LGBTQ+ people in the United States remain vulnerable to being evicted from their homes, kicked out of a business that’s open to the public, surcharged unnecessarily for goods and services, or denied health care, home loans, taxis/car-sharing, and government services in a majority of states simply because of who they love or who they are. The Equality Act — being introduced as S. 5 in the Senate and HR. 15 in the House — ensures LGBTQ+ people can live free from fear of harassment and discrimination by guaranteeing the same federal anti-discrimination protections and basic freedoms that others have enjoyed for decades — and expands protections for women, people of color, and people of all faiths.
The legislation has been endorsed by more than 630 organizations, including civil rights, education, health care, and faith-based organizations. It is backed by more than 530 companies employing more than 15.9 million people across 33 U.S. states with a combined annual revenue of $7.8 trillion. It has overwhelming support among business and corporate leaders, which includes more than 60 business associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers — and more than 160 Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, General Electric, Harley-Davidson, Home Depot, Honeywell, Kraft Heinz, Levi Strauss & Co., and Target, among many others.
Equality Act Needed As Crisis Escalates for LGBTQ+ People Across the Country
Extremist politicians and their allies have ushered in an unprecedented climate of fear, hostility, and discrimination that’s already rippling consequences across the LGBTQ+ community. As detailed in HRC’s legislative impact report, there has been a steady increase in anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures over the last several years — from 115 bills introduced in 2015 to more than 525 in 2023. This year, more than 75 bills have been signed into law — more than doubling last year’s number.
The 2023 state legislative session was the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation:
More than 525 bills were introduced in 41 states.
Over 220 of these bills explicitly targeted transgender people.
Over 76 bills have been signed into law as of June 5, 2023 — more than any year on record, and more than double over last year.
Transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming youth in particular have been directly impacted by anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, losing access to life saving medical care, comprehensive and inclusive education, and activities, spaces, and facilities.
Transgender sports bans (21 states) — 30% of high school aged transgender youth — approximately 90,100 of the estimated 300,100 transgender youth aged 13-17 in the U.S. — are living in states where they are unable to simply play alongside their friends. As these bills extend all the way down into Kindergarten and, in some states, through college, many more transgender youth and young adults are impacted as well.
Gender-affirming care bans (20 states) — 30.9% of all transgender youth age 13-17 are living in states where they can no longer access life-saving, best practices medical care. In some states, care has been banned not only for youth, but adults as well, especially through bans on public funds going to provide this best practice healthcare. More than 30 states introduced gender affirming care bans during the 2023 legislative session, meaning that at its height, half of all transgender youth in the U.S. were at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care.
Bathroom bans (9 states) — 14.8% of transgender people (age 13+) — over 243,000 of the 1.6 million transgender people in the U.S. — live in states where they are unable to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and/or other facilities in accordance with their gender identity while in K-12 (public) school buildings, if not elsewhere. This includes 32,700 transgender youth nationwide, or 10.9% of all transgender youth age 13-17. Over 110,000 transgender people (age 13+) live in states where they are also banned from using bathrooms and facilities in some public settings and buildings outside of K-12 schools.
Kelley Robinson’s full remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee (as prepared for delivery) can be found below. More information on the Equality Act and HRC’s emergency declaration can be found on HRC’s website here:
Oral Testimony of Kelley Robinson
President, Human Rights Campaign
Senate Judiciary Committee | June 21, 2023
*As prepared for delivery*
Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, and Members of the Committee:
My name is Kelley Robinson, my pronouns are she/her, and I am proud to serve as the President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), our nation’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people. Thank you for inviting me to submit testimony at this important hearing.
On behalf of HRC’s more than three million members and supporters, I have come here today with a single message—The LGBTQ+ people of the United States of America are living in a state of emergency.
This is neither exaggeration nor dramatization. More than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced this year in the states. More than 220 of those bills target the transgender community—many targeting our children specifically. And more than 75 of those anti-LGBTQ+ bills have now become law.
This includes laws that ban books and censor curriculum in the classroom; forbid children from being able to safely use the bathroom at school; and criminalize doctors for providing live-saving, gender-affirming healthcare.
The purpose of these laws is to facilitate a rise in political extremism by alienating and isolating LGBTQ+ Americans, and the impact of these laws is alarming.
There is now more violence against LGBTQ+ Americans—with mass shootings in our spaces, murders of transgender people, and threats from Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, and other groups the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as extremist.
There is now more anxiety and depression among LGBTQ+ children. Data from our most recent survey of LGBTQ+ teens shows that these laws make young people feel unsafe—and can prevent them from seeing a full future for themselves.
There are also more conversations among families about whether the state where they live is safe for their children. A mother of two transgender teens, who was deciding whether to move from her hometown in Texas, told me simply, “We have accepted that this state is not safe. It is a warlike zone.”
In every county you represent, in every county your colleagues represent, you will find parents and children, teachers and nurses, community leaders and small business owners who are afraid that the rise in legislative assaults and political extremism has put a target on their backs.
Such fear has no place in the United States of America.
That is why, for the first time in HRC’s nearly half-century history, we have declared this state of emergency. We have also issued a guidebook to help LGBTQ+ Americans stay safe as they navigate the new anti-LGBTQ+ laws—and a report that details the impact of these laws for advocates, policymakers, and the media. I have submitted both into the record.
Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, and Members of the Committee—We need you to help us answer this state of emergency with a sense of urgency.
Today, Senators Merkley, Baldwin, and Booker will introduce the Equality Act—which would make protections for LGBTQ+ Americans consistent and explicit across our nation.
It has been nearly a decade since this bill was first introduced. In that time, LGBTQ+ members of the military have served openly, marriage equality has been codified in federal law, and more LGBTQ+ Members of Congress have been elected than ever before. Furthermore, today more than 8 in 10 Americans support comprehensive nondiscrimination laws for LBGTQ+ people. It is time for Congress to catch up with our country and pass the Equality Act.
I want to conclude today by saying that although this is a state of emergency, we still live in a land of possibility, a nation that prides itself on progress. For every Tennessee, there is a Minnesota, which recently passed a statewide ban on so-called “conversion therapy.” For every Florida, there is a Michigan, which recently became the 22nd state to make LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections law. For every Texas, there is a Pennsylvania, which is on the cusp of becoming the 23rd. For every Defense of Marriage Act, there is a Respect for Marriage Act. And for every extremist, there are many, many more Americans who support LGBTQ+ rights.
Our nation is greater than hate—and we must take action now to end this emergency and secure equality for every American, without exception.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
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