COLUMBIA – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the South Carolina House passage of House Bill 4608, which bans transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
After over eight hours of debate and filibuster, HB 4608 was rushed through the South Carolina House of Representatives to meet a legislative deadline of April 10th. Although the Bill is titled “Save Women's Sports Act,” the South Carolina House has done everything except create an equal footing for women in sports. If this was about upholding equality for women, why did the House vote down an amendment that would guarantee equal funding of men's and women's sports in South Carolina? That’s in addition to rejecting an amendment that would require women's sports to have the same number of assistant coaches and amenities as men's teams. The hypocrisy is on full display.
HB 4608 artifically and unfairly separates transgender kids from their fellow students, further isolating kids who are already wrestling with the weight of discrimination. A recent study by the Trevor Project found that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. 94% of LGBTQ+ youth also reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health.
It’s clear the South Carolina House did not consider the serious consequences of bills like HB 4608.
As of March 31, more than 200 major U.S. corporations, including companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, Paypal, and the Walt Disney Company, have spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country, much of which attacks transgender youth.
Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley released the following statement:
“The South Carolina House has no shame. Not even a week after passing a discriminatory health care bill that attacks vulnerable patients, they double down on the attack against LGBTQ+ kids. Just like every kid across our country, transgender kids want to be able to play with their friends. For many youth, playing school sports is an integral part of student life. Sports are part of education for a reason - participating in sports helps students learn leadership, friendship, and teamwork alongside physical wellness, self-discipline, and the payoff of hard work. We urge the South Carolina Senate to stop this dangerous bill from becoming law.”
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 140 directly target transgender people and approximately half of those (75+ bills) would ban trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
The Justice Department issued a letter on April 1 to all state attorneys general reminding them of federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth against discrimination.
The latest PRRI data shows that 67% of South Carolinians support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. Nationwide, approximately 79% of Americans favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.
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
More than 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 showed 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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