SOTU: Human Rights Campaign President: Biden’s Focus on Supporting Transgender Young People Highlights that Anti-Trans Legislative Attacks are ‘An Emergency’

by Delphine Luneau

2023 Poised to Be Another Record Year as Extremist Lawmakers in Statehouses Across Country Push Discriminatory, Hateful Laws Targeting Transgender Children

WASHINGTON — In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Joe Biden made a point to defend transgender and non-binary youth from the wave of attacks they’re facing, saying “Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity.” In addition to calling for passage of the LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections in the Equality Act, he also celebrated the recent passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. After attending the address in person, Kelley Robinson, President of The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — released the following statement:

“Tonight, in front of Congress and the nation, President Biden called attention to the campaign of hatred that is driving discriminatory legislation that targets transgender kids in statehouses around the country. Extremist lawmakers are banning best-practice, doctor approved care, kicking kids off sports teams, censoring curriculum and more. None of this is news to the LGBTQ+ community, but too many others don’t seem to be getting the message that this is an emergency – families are being driven from their homes, people are being forced back into the closet, because decades-old homophobia, transphobia and discrimination are being resurrected in the form of anti-trans hatred. When marriage equality was under threat from the extreme rhetoric of a Supreme Court justice, Congress and the president took quick action to pass into law the Respect for Marriage Act. Now, as he calls for passage of the Equality Act, we appreciate that President Biden is making a point to focus national attention on this urgent topic and stand up for transgender kids, because we need our nation’s leaders to show up and prove that collectively, we are greater than hate.”

Robinson, who was named the first Black, queer woman to lead HRC in November 2022, was in attendance at the address as a guest of House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. — a longtime congressional advocate and champion for advancing LGBTQ+ equality. Also invited, as guests of first lady Jill Biden, were marriage equality advocates Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith. The Nortonsmiths were plaintiffs in the case that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and were in attendance at the White House in December 2022 when President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law. And attending as a guest of Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt., was Bill Lippert, a longtime state lawmaker and LGBTQ+ trailblazer who founded multiple advocacy organizations, founded Burlington’s first Pride parade in the 1980s, and helped guide the state to pass marriage equality through the legislature.

The Biden-Harris administration has an unparalleled record on advancing LGBTQ+ equality — from initiating executive actions and rulemakings to signing federal legislation into law. As state legislatures across the country have advanced hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills – with an emphasis on attacking transgender youth – the Biden administration has served as an important and urgent counterweight, prioritizing policies that aim to protect against discrimination.

A Wave of Anti-Trans Attacks Across the Nation

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s State Equality Index, 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in statehouses across the U.S, in 2022 as part of a calculated push by far-right extremist groups throughout the country. 29 passed into law. This year is expected to be worse. The first anti-LGBTQ+ law of 2023 was already signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox last month. Just over a month into the 2023 state legislative sessions, we’re already tracking more than 210 anti-LGBTQ+ bills moving across 30 states, including bans on life-saving, gender-affirming care, restrictions on school curriculum and discussions, trans students’ participation in school sports, and LGBTQ youth’s rights to identity and privacy in the classroom.

While only 10% of these bills eventually were signed into law in 2022, they still set a record for the most attacks on equality signed into law in recent history. 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. Anti-transgender legislation took several forms, including 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity and 42 bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law. 19 states exclude transgender athletes in school sports and 5 states restrict access to gender-affirming healthcare.

Although members of the transgender and non-binary community were the primary targets of the discriminatory legislation, anti-LGBTQ+ bills took other forms as well. One of the most notable trends 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.

Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias and the last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, especially Black transgender women, we have seen since we began tracking fatal violence against the community. Reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ+ people, such as the Club Q shooting that cost the lives of five people, have been making news across the country – with white nationalists targeting a Pride event in Idaho and Proud Boys crashing Drag Queen story hours at local libraries to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs. Finally, anti-LGBTQ+ stigma also drives alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, but LGBTQ+ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to attempt suicide.

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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