The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is tracking 452 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S., according to data the organization has compiled through April 11. These bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. since January and represent a new record — already more than twice the number of such bills introduced all of last year.
As PGN has been reporting for nearly two years, it’s a really bad time to be LGBTQ in America. The Republican party as a whole is virulently anti-LGBTQ. Donald Trump codified anti-LGBTQ attitudes throughout his presidency and Trumpism has subsumed the GOP with anti-LGBTQ legislation a focal point. The ACLU announced the latest this week that “bills targeting LGBTQ rights” are at an all-time high and “while not all of these bills will become law, they all cause harm for LGBTQ people.”
Education and health care are the main focuses of these bills. The ACLU says they are being advanced in state legislatures at unprecedented levels. The bills include bans on access to gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and so-called parental rights bills that regulate curriculum and libraries in public schools, including any discourse on gender identity and sexual orientation. Nearly 300 education-related bills have been introduced in 2023, which is more than twice the number of similar bills in 2022, according to the ACLU data.
The ACLU also signals a change in the focal point of the bills with additional categories, including the banning of drag performances. PGN
has reported how drag performances have become a new target of the right.
As ACLU points out, lawmakers across the country have modeled their own bills after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity. Now several states have joined Tennessee in proposing bills that would ban drag performances.
The speed at which bills are being proposed and advanced are noted in the ACLU lists; red states in the South and other red states are disproportionately represented with over 40 in Missouri and over 30 in Mississippi. There are six bills in New Jersey and three in Pennsylvania.
The ACLU notes that “new bills are filed nearly every day and the landscape is changing quickly.” In 2023, state legislatures have introduced four times as many health-related anti-LGBTQ bills and twice as many education-related bills than they did in all of 2022. Drag performances also are under heavy scrutiny for the first time.
“We have seen the scope and scale of these attacks increase over the last few years, starting around 2020-2021,” said Gillian Branstetter, communications strategist for the ACLU. “This year, it’s not just the total number that has gotten worse, but the extremity of the bills.”
ACLU data shows that states have introduced “forced outing” bills. These bills, which are part of the Texas GOP platform, force teachers to alert parents if a student changes their name or pronouns, even without the consent of the student. Sixty of the education-related bills introduced this year are “forced outings” bills, according to ACLU data.
“[These bills] rely on this sort of paranoid idea that teachers are secretly encouraging your kids to identify as trans, and then not telling you about it,” said Branstetter. “It’s fundamentally important that all young people feel they can build trust with the people that they spend most of their day with, which are their teachers.”
The “forced outing” bills either ban teachers and other school personnel from referring to students by their preferred pronouns without parent consent or by allowing teachers to refuse to do so. “Parents’ Bill of Rights” bills require schools to publish curriculum publicly and allow parents to inspect books and reading materials made available in school libraries. GOP politicians assert that greater parental oversight will prevent exposure to “radical” literature and inappropriate discussions around race, gender and sexuality.
Twenty-four of the more than 400 bills introduced in 2023 have already been signed into law in 11 states. A majority of these are healthcare and education related. Two of the signed bills ban drag performances in public spaces, while at least 39 bills targeting drag performances have been introduced in legislatures in 2023. This was not a category previously, according to the ACLU, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has added drag shows to his list of banned events and been very vocal on the issue.
The ACLU says that new bills have categorized drag shows with adult entertainment, like adult movie theaters and strip clubs. Other anti-drag bills would ban performances in the presence of children, with Republican lawmakers asserting that drag performances expose children to sexually provocative and inappropriate themes.
More than two-thirds of the healthcare-related bills introduced in 2023 intend to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. Ten of those bills have been signed into law so far this year, according to a CNN review of state legislation and ACLU data. While 10 seems a benign number relative to 452, that’s more than triple the number of bills passed in 2021 and 2022 combined.
As even mainstream media has reported, gender-affirming care is “medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender, the one the person was designated at birth, to their affirmed gender, the gender by which one wants to be known.”
The majority of Americans, 54 percent, actually oppose bills criminalizing gender transition-related medical care for minors, according to a recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll.
Yet last month, Idaho’s governor signed a bill restricting transgender students from using school bathrooms that align with their gender identities. And Kentucky lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to pass a sweeping bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans children.
As was true in 2022, the latest anti-LGBTQ legislation disproportionately targets transgender people, putting them at risk. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post survey conducted last month, 1 in 4 transgender adults say they have been physically attacked, with the rate even higher for trans people of color. As PGN reported last month, there were calls for the “eradication of transgenderism” at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
For more information on individual bills, visit https://www.aclu.org/.