by HRC Staff •
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 Legislature for passing Senate File 496 on Tuesday, which is their version of “Don’t Say LGBTQ+'' legislation. The bill bans classroom discussions that touch on LGBTQ+ topics in grades K-6, and also requires schools to forcibly out transgender students.
Human Rights Campaign Legislative Counsel Courtnay Avant released the following statement:
“It is egregious that the Iowa Legislature is using its power to jeopardize the lives and dignity of LGBTQ+ students across the state. Attempting to erase LGBTQ+ people from the classroom isolates an entire group of youth who deserve to feel affirmed and safe at school. Lawmakers should be working to uplift inclusion and diversity in education - not marginalizing and stigmatizing LGBTQ+ students. We condemn this discriminatory bill and strongly urge Governor Reynolds to veto it.”
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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.
So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 210 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.
This year, HRC is tracking:
More than 120 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 12 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Dakota.
More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,
More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 40 anti-drag performance bills.
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.
More than 300 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed in states across the country. Major employers in tech, manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, and other sectors are joining with a unified voice to say discrimination is bad for business and to call on lawmakers to abandon these efforts. 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.
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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