by Delphine Luneau •
Senate Passes HB1041, Which Would Unjustly Prevent Transgender Hoosiers From Participating in Youth Sports Alongside Their Peers
INDIANAPOLIS — Following the passage today of House Bill 1041, legislation in the Indiana Senate that will effectively ban trans youth from taking part in sports alongside their peers, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the vote by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley issued the following statement in reaction to today’s vote:
“Trans kids – like all kids – just want to be able to play with their friends. This regressive and damaging legislation hurts transgender youth and doesn’t address any actual problem – just ask the bill’s supporters, who have have failed to provide examples of any problem in Indiana related to trans youth playing sports. Instead, it is a crass political ploy by lawmakers looking to satisfy national anti-LGBTQ forces at the expense of the well-being of transgender youth. Indiana’s HB1041 is legislation that discriminates needlessly, harms a group of already vulnerable children, and serves no legitimate purpose. If Governor Holcomb signs this bill, he will be harming transgender youth by excluding them from the benefits of participation in school sports, including character-building lessons like teamwork, leadership, responsibility and discipline.”
Both chambers of the Indiana legislature are controlled by Republican lawmakers. HB1041 passed in the House of Representatives in January on a 66-30; the vote in the Senate was 32-18.
In a recent press conference before the vote, the Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Kate Oakley, State Senator JD Ford (District 29), Greencastle City Councilor Veronica Pejril and activist Dana Black called out the Indiana General Assembly for partnering with a national hate group – the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – to pass House Bill 1041. The ADF is currently embarking on a national campaign against the country’s transgender community, and HB 1041 is their latest tactic. In fact, the ADF and Idaho State Rep. Barbara Ehardt have both collaborated with state legislators and testified in support of this legislation in multiple states – including Idaho, Montana, and now Indiana. According to a 2021 poll, only about 30 percent of Republican voters support legislation like House Bill 1041.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the ADF as a national hate group for their longstanding opposition to the LGBTQ+ community. Their work includes efforts to criminalize LGBTQ+ relationships, opposing settled law like marriage equality, and even opposing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence – kids who face relentless targeting and increased levels of discrimination in their community, as evidenced by the record incidents of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-binary people in 2021.
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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