HRC’s Weekly State Fights Report: Nex Benedict’s Death Reminds America What’s At Stake

by Brandon Wolf

February 26, 2024


  • 43 states are currently in session as of Feb 23

  • So far, HRC is tracking about 740+ bills:
    • 190+ pro-equality bills

    • 400+ anti-equality bills

    • Four anti-equality bills have passed into law (one in Ohio, one in Tennessee and two in Utah)

    • Two pro-equality bills have passed into law (Maine and California)


On February 8, Nex Benedict, a non-binary teenager, died after being brutally assaulted inside a bathroom at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, where they were a student. The hatred that led to this attack is the direct result of anti-equality politicians, like Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters and members of the Oklahoma legislature, who spread anti-transgender vitriol, including in support of discriminatory legislation – simply to rile up and gain influence with their extremist base. Oklahoma, where Nex lived, has passed a number of anti-transgender laws in the past several years, including a ban on health care for transgender youth and a bill that prevents transgender youth from accessing restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. The state legislature has already proposed over 50 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, among the most in the nation, and is fourth in the country for book bans in schools.

Already this year, eighteen states have introduced bathroom bans similar to the one in place in Oklahoma, and this type of legislation has been shown to dramatically increase safety risks for trans and gender-expansive youth. Simply put: MAGA extremists are putting kids in harm's way with hateful policies and rhetoric. Nex deserved better. Every young person deserves better. And Nex’s death is a reminder to the nation what’s at stake: the lives of our children.


This Thursday is Crossover Day in the Georgia legislature, where a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been advancing. SB180 would create a state “Religious Freedom Restoration Act'' and place a thumb on the scale for religious exemptions that can lead to harm for LGBTQ+ people, women, religious minorities, and other vulnerable communities. SB394 would create a state council to establish standards to ban books in public school libraries and prevent schools from contracting with vendors who do not agree to rate instructional materials. We also anticipate movement on SB154, a bill that would subject librarians to criminalization for handing out so-called “harmful materials” to students.

Alongside our partners at Georgia Equality, the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, SPLC Action, Faith in Public Life, SNAP Co, and others, HRC will join hundreds of advocates at the state capitol tomorrow to lobby legislators to reject anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.


Anti-Equality Bills:

  • Arizona: We anticipate movement on SB1182, an anti-transgender bill concerning school shower rooms that would require proof of sex, including an attestation by a doctor that chromosomes match asserted sex, and SB1628, an LGBTQ+ Erasure Act that would also allow government buildings to discriminate against transgender people in spaces like bathrooms or locker rooms, and require schools to gather data based on sex assigned at birth. We are also actively engaging with lawmakers about the impacts of SCR1013, a ballot referral that would restrict transgender students from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and allow educators to refuse to use their proper names. If passed through both chambers, SCR 1013 would not require Governor Hobbs’ signature and would go directly to the November ballot for consideration.

  • Florida: Last Thursday, the Infrastructure Strategies Committee passed HB1639, a bill that would require health insurance to offer policy options that exclude gender-affirming care and require health insurance policies to cover so-called “conversion therapy,” a traumatic and damaging treatment that has been disproven and debunked by the entire medical community. In addition, it would require state identification cards and driver's licenses to list a person's sex assigned at birth. The bill now heads to the House floor.

  • Iowa: Last Tuesday, the Iowa Senate passed SF2095. This bill would create a state "Religious Freedom Restoration Act'' and place a thumb on the scale for religious exemptions that can lead to harm for LGBTQ+ people, women, religious minorities, and other vulnerable communities. The bill could be used in claims against businesses as well as government entities.

  • Tennessee: SB 596, which would permit government employees responsible for solemnizing marriages as part of their job duties to refuse to do so if they assert a moral or religious objection, was signed into law by Governor Lee last Wednesday. On Tuesday, HB1949 was passed by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. This bill continues Tennessee's tradition of expanding criminal offenses in private places in a way that can be used to harass or intimidate transgender people in restrooms or locker rooms. Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear SB620. This bill would define parents’ rights to include barriers to gender-affirming health care and restrict access to sex education and inclusive school lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill would also require schools to adopt procedures requiring written permission before using affirming pronouns for transgender and non-binary students, and would permit instances of deadnaming and misgendering.


“We told them this would happen. We told them that if they continued this rhetoric of hate, this rhetoric of division, that it would result in body bags, and I am devastated to tell you we were right.”

HRC Associate Regional Campaign Director Nicole Poindexter at a vigil for Nex Benedict in Oklahoma City

To follow HRC’s state legislation work on Twitter, visit here. For Instagram, visit here.

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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