Des Moines, Iowa – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the Iowa Senate for passing House File 348, which is their version of “Don’t Say LGBTQ+'' legislation. The bill is a discriminatory attack against the LGBTQ+ community that bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-6. The bill would also prohibit schools from providing gender-affirming accommodations for transgender students without parental consent, and would require school staff to out transgender students. The Iowa House passed this bill just days after a record-breaking number of Iowans came to Des Moines to protest the slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced by Iowa lawmakers this year.
Human Rights Campaign Legislative Counsel Courtnay Avant released the following statement:
“The Iowa House’s passage of this harmful and unnecessary 'don't say LGBTQ+' bill sends a clear message that LGBTQ+ students are not valued and their identities are not welcome in Iowa’s schools. Students, parents, and educators deserve better. All Iowans deserve better than politicians playing political games that undermine the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth while also violating their fundamental human rights to equality and lives free of discrimination. These students, like everyone else, deserve the right to grow up feeling respected for who they are. We call on the Iowa Senate to reject this bill.”
Anti-LGBTQ+ legislators are targeting LGBTQ+ youth by attempting to silence, erase, and isolate them through curriculum censorship, book bans, and other divisive tactics. But poll after poll indicates that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to these efforts to punish and target LGBTQ+ youth. In 2020, eight of the 10 books that received the most challenges to use in libraries and schools were based on LGBTQ+ subjects or narratives, according to the American Library Association’s annual ranking of books that were banned or protested in schools and public libraries.
By a 60-point margin, Americans oppose banning books in public schools. When described as “a growing push to remove certain books from schools across the country, including the graphic novel Maus about the Holocaust, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, and 1984,” more than three in four Americans oppose the banning of books in public schools (16 percent support – 76 percent oppose). Opposition is strong across partisanship, with opposition from almost four in five Republicans (78 percent) and about three in four Democrats and Independents (74 and 76 percent, respectively). [Navigator poll, 2/17-22]
Curriculum censorship policies aim to prevent the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues or people in education settings. This means teachers would be prevented from providing a safe, inclusive classroom for all students. Laws like those in Florida blocks teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, further stigmatizing LGBTQ+ people and isolating LGBTQ+ kids. It also undermines existing protections for LGBTQ+ students. Other laws like those in Alabama bans any acknowledgement of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through fifth grade.
LGBTQ+ kids already face real threats and obstacles. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have been targets of bullying, harassment or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement. A recent Trevor Project survey showed that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by the current wave of legislative attacks. “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” and “Stop WOKE” are vile examples of state-sponsored discrimination, bullying and harassment. Studies clearly demonstrate the harms for LGBTQ+ youth mental health when they are denied affirming and protective school environments.
Poll after poll indicates that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to these efforts to punish and target LGBTQ+ youth via curriculum censorship. Seventy-one percent of likely voters – including 66 percent of Independents and 64 percent of Republicans – believe that local school boards should not have the authority to ban books from school curriculums [Data for Progress poll, 2/11-13]. Based on National Parents Union’s national polling and meetings with parents all over the country, Keri Rodrigues, co-founder and president of the organization, says restricting how teachers can talk about race or gender "is really at the bottom of the list" of parental priorities. [National Parents Union]
Voters rejected attacks on school curriculums in the 2022 midterm elections. The 2022 midterms showed that attacks on school curriculums — specifically on critical race theory and so-called gender ideology — largely were a dud in the general election. According to an HRC post-election poll, less than 5% of voters identified gender affirming care for trans youth or trans participation in sports as issues motivating them to vote, the last on the list. Anti-LGBTQ+ groups like American First Legal and American Principles Project — led by people like Stephen Miller, known as the architect behind some of Trump’s most xenophobic and anti-immigration policies — poured tens of millions of dollars into advertising and mailers across the country, in support of candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas; those investments fell flat, as nearly all of their supported candidates lost their bids for elected office, including people like Tudor Dixon, who pushed anti-trans rhetoric in the days before pro-equality Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clinched reelection victory.
One of the most notable legislative trends in 2022 was a resurgence of curriculum censorship and “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” bills that turn back the clock and restrict teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ issues and other marginalized communities in their classrooms. Across the country, 70 curriculum censorship bills were filed and 7 passed into law. In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law.
Three months into 2023, HRC is already tracking 410 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. 175 of those would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.
So far this year, HRC is tracking:
90 bills that would prevent trans youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; two have already become law, in Utah and South Dakota,
More bathroom ban bills filed than in any previous year,
And 28 anti-LGBTQ+ bills which have passed at least one chamber, 10 of which are specifically anti-trans.
In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.
Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation took several forms, including:
80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. 19 states now exclude transgender athletes in school sports.
42 bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare. 5 states now restrict access to gender-affirming care.
70 curriculum censorship bills tried to turn back the clock and restrict teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ issues and other marginalized communities in their classrooms. 7 passed into law.
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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