(NEW YORK) — This year, state legislators introduced and passed a record-breaking number of legislative efforts targeting LGBTQ healthcare, access to public accommodations, inclusion in education, and more in the U.S.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it recorded at least 508 bills impacting the community in 2023, adding 84 of these bills were passed into law.
The rise in legislation coincided with an increase in threats of violence against the LGBTQ community, with federal security agencies sounding the alarm. However, activists say that despite the record-breaking wave of anti-LGBTQ bills, other lawmakers have stepped up to combat such efforts.
“We’ve also witnessed incredible moments of strength in states and communities across the country who have made sure this political assault does not go unnoticed or is made any easier for politicians opposed to our very existence,” said Gillian Branstetter, Communications Strategist at the ACLU, in a statement to ABC News.
The vast majority of legislation passed across the country has impacted gender-affirming care for minors, blocking trans youth from accessing treatments in some cases including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries.
These laws do not restrict such treatments for cisgender or intersex youth.
“For transgender people and our families across the country, 2023 was a devastating year of attacks on our safety, our dignity, and our freedom,” said Branstetter. “The spreading bans and restrictions on our health care are an especially acute threat to our liberty and well-being, one we only expect to grow more dangerous in the next year.”
Supporters of these laws believe that gender transitioning is harmful to youth and young adults. Some say patients should wait until they are older to make this kind of health decision.
In a March post on X, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he signed the bill in his state that banned doctors from starting hormone therapy for transgender youth under the age of 18 “to ensure we protect the health and wellbeing of Georgia’s children.”
“As Georgians, parents, and elected leaders, it is our highest responsibility to safeguard the bright, promising futures of our kids — and SB 140 takes an important step in fulfilling that mission,” he continued.
In September, a judge allowed the state to enforce the ban after a suit was filed, the Associated Press reported.
Major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and over 20 more agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, beneficial, and medically necessary.
Transgender youth are more likely to experience anxiety, depressed mood, and suicidal ideation and attempts, often due to gender-related discrimination and gender dysphoria, according to the CDC. Gender-affirming hormone therapy has been proven to improve the mental health of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
At least 14 laws impacting the LGBTQ community – including restrictions on drag performances, LGBTQ content in schools and gender-affirming care – are in the midst of court battles.
Even as the year comes to an end, some of these legislative efforts continue to trudge their way forward.
The Ohio legislature passed a bill restricting certain transgender rights for minors in the state on Dec. 13, and it is being considered on the desk of Republican Gov. Richard DeWine.
In Wisconsin, the legislature is considering legislation restricting transgender participation in sports. However, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to combat legislation he considers harmful to the LGBTQ community. He previously vetoed a bill that would outlaw gender-affirming care for minors.
However, several states have instead passed protections for the LGBTQ community this year, including Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and California.
“The silver lining in this year of challenge is the way LGBTQ people and our allies showed up for our community and for everyone’s fundamental freedoms,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD.
She continued – pointing to LGBTQ support in pop culture, politics, and religious spaces – “Using our visibility, voices, and power, LGBTQ people have so much to be grateful for and continue to fight for in 2024.”
New protections included historic civil rights amendments protecting LGBTQ+ people, bans on conversion therapy, cultural competency programs in schools, and more.
The Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination on a federal level, was also reintroduced in Congress by four Democratic legislators amid a nationwide rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment that has led to an increase in violence and threats against the queer community. However, the act has yet to gain traction.
“Despite these setbacks, however, we have still achieved numerous wins for equality: from Minnesota passing a conversion therapy ban into law to Michigan enacting its historic civil rights amendment protecting LGBTQ+ people,” said Sarah Warbelow, the vice president of legal efforts at Human Rights Campaign, in a statement to ABC News.
“Looking ahead to next year, we will remain steadfast in the fight against legislation targeting peoples’ lives and the radical hate that comes with it,” Warbelow added.
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