BREAKING: Arizona House Passes Anti-Transgender Sports and Medical Care Bans

by Delphine Luneau

Bills Now Head to Gov. Doug Ducey’s Desk For Signature or Veto

Phoenix, Arizona – Today, the Arizona House passed Senate Bill 1138, which bans some types of medical care for transgender youth, and Senate Bill 1165, which prevents transgender students from participating in school sports. The bills now head to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk for signature or veto. Unfortunately, Speaker of the House Bowers sent SB 1138 and SB 1165 to a vote on the House floor knowing that several members of the legislature who oppose this legislation were on their way to a legislator conference.

SB 1138 is a cruel and potentially life-threatening bill that would harm transgender youth for whom gender-affirming services are medically necessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the nation’s other leading medical and mental health professionals oppose this legislation, which interferes with their ability to provide best-practice, often life-saving care.

Two Republican governors, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in Utah and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoed similar anti-trans sports bans earlier this week, rejecting the discriminatory bills approved by their legislatures. In a letter explaining his veto, Gov. Cox cited high suicide rates among transgender youth and stated, “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.” Both Gov. Holcomb and Gov. Cox also cited concerns over legal challenges, which have followed similar laws in other states.

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed an anti-LGBTQ+ RFRA Bill in 2014, which she said divided the state and would have led to similar legal and economic consequences for Arizona.

Human Rights Campaign Arizona State Director Bridget Sharpe issued the following statement in reaction to today’s vote:

“It is simply not the job of legislators to make healthcare decisions for the families who this legislation will directly impact. We have been coordinating closely with medical professionals, athletic administrators, and, most importantly, the children and their families who will be directly impacted by this legislation and all are confused, hurt, and scared as to why their legislators have decided to single them out when their lives are already extremely difficult. It is disappointing and disheartening that the Speaker of the House decided to bring these bills to a vote without all members of the House present.
We strongly urge Gov. Ducey to follow the leadership of Republican Gov. Cox in Utah and Gov. Holcomb in Indiana and veto these discriminatory bills.
Transgender kids do not deserve to be the targets of dehumanizing attacks that invalidate their identity. For transgender young folks for whom this care this medically necessary, this bill could have serious, life-threatening consequences. And like all children, transgender youth deserve to participate in school athletic programs as their true selves, not forced to be isolated and dismissed by their schools. Transgender kids are just kids, and they deserve to play.
Arizonans deserve better than legislators who are seeking to bully transgender youth with politically motivated bills for the sake of discrimination itself. Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence. We urge Gov. Ducey to do the right thing and veto these harmful bills.”

Darrell Hill, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona:

“Arizona has unfortunately joined the long list of states that have made bullying and discriminating against trans students a priority this legislative session. These unabated attacks on trans kids attempt to solve problems that do not exist and singles out people for simply being transgender. Gov. Ducey should follow in the footsteps of the Republican governors in Utah and Indiana and veto legislation that harms the health and well-being of transgender youth.”

A record number of anti-transgender bills were filed in 2021, largely focused on denying transgender youth the ability to receive gender-affirming care and participate in school athletics programs. Even more anti-transgender legislation is on track to be filed in 2022. There are more than 320 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of those, at least 130 directly target transgender people and approximately half of those (70+ bills) would ban trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Politicians are culpable for the harm they cause to LGBTQ+ people’s wellbeing simply by being subjected to continual legislative attacks on their dignity and humanity. There are real consequences to the discrimination perpetrated upon LGBTQ+ people, and particularly transgender youth. According to a recent analysis, 55% of LGBTQ+ Arizonans reported they’ve suffered from depression in the past two weeks.

In a recent roundtable, parents on transgender youth in Arizona spoke out about the harm these bills have on their children’s mental health and well-being. A recording of the roundtable can be found here.

The latest PRRI data show that support for LGBTQ+ rights is on the rise in Arizona and nationwide: 77% of Arizonans support nondiscrimination protections, and 67% of Arizonans oppose refusal of service on religious grounds. Approximately eight in ten Americans (79%) favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. This reflects an 11% increase in the proportion of Americans who support nondiscrimination protections since 2015 (71%).

Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point

Legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, legislators in twelve states enacted anti-LGBTQ+ bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they were legislating against.

Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a damaging impact, leading to LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year old kids literally having trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent's complaint. 2021 and 2020 were the deadliest and second deadliest years on record for trans & gender non-conforming people respectively, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project survey shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.

Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself. This is in large part because transgender young people are among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America, and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing misogynistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.

Anti-Equality Forces Are Spending Big

These bills are the result of a concerted effort by right-wing organizations that have been battling against LGBTQ+ progress for years. Across recent elections, one of the key anti-equality groups working to turn back decades of LGBTQ+ progress has been the American Principles Project (APP). APP and its chief underwriter Sam Fieler have invested millions of dollars in support of anti-LGBTQ+ candidates. In 2020, APP spent more than $2.6 million in ad spending in support of anti-equality candidates. In Virginia in 2021, APP spent at least $300,000 on digital advertising in support of Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign.

Restoration PAC, run and funded by major anti-LGBTQ+ bankroller Dick Uihlein, spent at least $1.9 million in advertising across Virginia in support of Youngkin and donated $942,000 to the political arm of anti-abortion group Women Speak Out Virginia. Anti-equality group Free to Learn Action launched a $1 million ad campaign spreading widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation in support of Youngkin’s campaign.

Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation

About 200 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, and Paypal have objected to these bills. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas. And more than 60 major companies joined HRC to urge Texas Governor Abbott & elected officials across the country to abandon anti-transgender efforts.

Many are rightly protective of the legacy of women’s sports in this country, and a robust Title IX is central to that legacy. Importantly, advocates for women and girls in sports – such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others – support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. So do prominent female athletes including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That’s because while there are real issues facing women’s sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.

Nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.

Trans Equality Is Popular Across All Demographics

The reality is that however sensational and polarizing this issue may seem, public opinion polling across the country show strong support for trans-inclusive and pro-equality policies:

Recent PRRI data shows a large majority of Americans (82%) favor laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, and majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (85%), and Democrats (92%) favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.

A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states.

In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group in 2020 showed:

  • At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.

  • At least 87% of respondents across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support

  • When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.

Another poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

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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