Human Rights Campaign Condemns Arizona Lawmakers for Advancing Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills, Putting the Well-Being of Youth At Risk

by Delphine Luneau

Both Senate Bill 1138 and House Bill 2161 mandate unprecedented government intrusion in the lives of Arizonans

Phoenix, Arizona – Yesterday, Arizona lawmakers continued to advance anti-LGBTQ+ bills targeting youth. The Senate passed Senate Bill 1138, which bans best practice medical care for transgender youth, and the House passed House Bill 2161, which requires health care entities and school staff to forcibly out LGBTQ+ children to their parents.

Senate Bill 1138 explicitly targets transgender youth by banning some gender-affirming medical procedures for anyone under 18 years old. Medical and mental health professionals oppose this legislation, which interferes with their ability to provide best-practice, often life-saving care.

House Bill 2161 requires schools and healthcare entities to give parents access to all of their child’s written and electronic records, which could include a student’s urgent trip to the guidance counselor to discuss their mental health.. Parents could sue schools for withholding information concerning any facet of a minor’s health from their parents, including information regarding a student’s gender identity and/or transitioning.

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

“Arizona legislators trying to advance discriminatory bills targeting LGBTQ+ youth, and transgender youth in particular, show no shame. Caught in the crosshairs of elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence.
SB 1138 is a cruel and potentially life-threatening bill that would harm transgender youth who rely on gender-affirming services. Medical decisions should be made between parents, children, and their medical care teams – not politicians.
HB 2161 will also cause severe emotional distress to LGBTQ+ youth who are more likely to face victimization, violence, and suicidality. Forcibly outing LGBTQ+ children puts their lives in danger. Trust between school staff and students is also necessary to provide adequate mental-health support. LGBTQ+ youth should be able to manage their identity without interference from parents or schools – especially given that nearly half of all LGBTQ+ youth who are out to their parents say that their families make them feel bad for being who they are.
Politicians are directly responsible for the harm they cause LGBTQ+ youth by subjecting them to continual intrusive attacks on their dignity and humanity. We strongly urge Arizona lawmakers to stop these bills and put an end to these attacks.”

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. South Dakota has already passed one anti-transgender law this year – and in addition to Arizona – Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin are on the verge of passing anti-transgender bills in the coming days. Additionally, Florida is considering two bills that more broadly impact all LGBTQ+ youth.

As we saw just last week, there are real consequences to the discrimination perpetrated upon LGBTQ+ people, and particuarly transgender youth. According to the new analysis, 55% of LGBTQ+ Arizonans reported they’ve suffered from depression in the past two weeks

Anti-transgender public policy efforts also affects business’ bottom lines – having widespread negative impacts on the workforce, ability to recruit, and productivity. As a result, 150+ businesses have signed a Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation, to take a clear stance against anti-LGBTQ+ public policy.

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 more than 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 mysoginistic, 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

More than 150 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.

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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