Nearly three months into the new year, lawmakers in dozens of states have introduced a slew of bills that could limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans.
The proposals range from prohibiting instruction about gender identity in the classroom to restricting access to gender-affirming health care and excluding transgender youth from school athletics.
On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, approving the controversial measure that opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
HB 1557, titled the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, was given final passage by Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature earlier this month. The law is set to take effect in July.
But Florida isn’t the only state pushing legislation that many opponents say is potentially harmful to LGBTQ children and young adults.
Earlier this month, Idaho’s state House approved HB 675, which stipulates medical personnel who provide gender-affirming health care and parents who agree for their child to receive such care could face life in prison. The bill passed 55-13 and now moves to the Senate. The measure adds medical care for transgender youth to a section of Idaho law already on the books that bans female genital mutilation.
And in Georgia, lawmakers introduced a bill similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Among other classroom restrictions, the Georgia bill aims to “deter developmentally inappropriate classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation” for primary school students.
Iowa, Tennessee, and Oklahoma are among the states that are considering the most pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill
“We will continue to recognize that in the state of Florida, parents have a fundamental role in the education, health care and well-being of their children. We will not move from that,” DeSantis, a Republican, said during Monday’s bill signing.
Opponents have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, arguing the ban it creates would negatively impact LGBTQ youth. The bill also bans schools from withholding any information about a student and the curriculum to parents.
The reaction: In the weeks leading up to the signing of the bill, Florida students hosted school walkouts in protest.
Earlier this month, Disney had faced internal strife and a public reckoning in the days leading up to and after the bill’s passage by the Florida Legislature. CEO Bob Chapek apologized for his “silence” on the controversial bill, days after declining to condemn it. Chapek later told his LGBTQ employees: “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.” The fallout continued as some Disney employees staged walkouts.
On Monday, DeSantis’ move was met with immediate backlash from LGBTQ advocates, including the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that works on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.
“LGBTQ youth in Florida deserve better. They deserve to see their history, their families, and themselves reflected in the classroom,” said Amit Paley, the group’s CEO and executive director, in a statement. “While I am saddened to see this harmful bill signed into law, I am inspired by the outpouring of support for LGBTQ students we have seen from parents, teachers, celebrities, and their peers. Social support is vital for suicide prevention, and I want to remind LGBTQ youth in Florida and across the country that you are not alone.”
What’s next? The law is set to take effect in July.
Texas’ anti-trans health care order
Although the Texas legislature will not convene for a regular session this year, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in February to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to launch a full child abuse investigation into parents of trans children.
This order came after a legal opinion published by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stating that any gender-affirming health care for trans children is considered child abuse.
The reaction: Texas DFPS has yet to launch an investigation into any family seeking gender-affirming procedures of prescribed medication. The first attempt was barred by a district court judge in Texas after the Texas ACLU filed a restraining order on behalf of a family wanting gender-affirming health care for their trans daughter. On Wednesday, the Third Court of Appeals in Texas dismissed Abbott’s appeal to a temporary restraining order that ordered the state to halt its investigation of the family with the transgender teen.
Less than a week after the governor issued the directive, the ACLU and other groups claimed DFPS was already investigating multiple families, including the family mentioned in the lawsuit and listed anonymously as the “Doe” family.
Earlier this month, Texas Children’s Hospital paused hormone therapies for trans children to avoid any legal ramifications for health care professionals.
Recently, Jeff Younger – a Republican candidate for the Texas House of Representatives and supporter of Abbott’s order – was confronted by a group of protesters at University of North Texas for an event hosted by a conservative student group on campus. Social media shows video of Younger clapping at students chanting “fascists” at him as they banged on desks in protest. Students who attended the event reported that Younger was met with more boos and chanting while he spoke.
What’s next? A judge in Texas blocked the state from enforcing Abbott’s order to investigate gender-affirming care of minors as “child abuse.”
Earlier this month, Paxton announced he was suing the Biden administration over guidance from federal health officials that conflicts with his legal opinion that gender-affirming procedures in children should be considered “child abuse.”
Abbott and Paxton were both candidates for the Republican primary last week in which Abbott won the primary for governor and Paxton advanced to the runoff.
Iowa’s transgender sports ban
Earlier this month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed HF 2416, a bill stating, “only female students, based on their sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls.” The legislation applies to public schools of all levels including colleges and universities.
“Based on their sex” – as defined by the bill – means the sex that is defined on a student’s birth certificate.
Reynolds argued that the physicality of someone assigned male at birth is a natural advantage in comparison to that of a woman, thus inspiring her decisions to pass the bill. She said that allowing trans women to play women’s sports is not inclusive because they are still men in her opinion.
The reaction: Iowa schools had already openly opposed the bill. In a statement, the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) said it will not support “any anti-LGBTQ+ laws.”
“Our purpose is to serve and protect our LGTBQ+ youth, as every member of our CRCSD community is valued and respected regardless of gender identity,” the CRCSD said.
The ACLU of Iowa has expressed concerns for the bill on social media stating, “This is a dark day for Iowa.”
LGBTQ rights groups like Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign have also publicly opposed the legislation. They have also shared their support for trans youth in Iowa on social media, and they stated that they will continue to advocate for trans rights in the state.
What’s next? After signing the bill, it was immediately put into effect in the state.
Opponents have had some limited legal success in fighting such measures, including last year when a federal judge temporarily blocked West Virginia’s enforcement of its ban after advocates sued the state, with the judge saying he had “been provided with scant evidence that this law addresses any problem at all, let alone an important problem.” And in 2020, a federal judge blocked Idaho’s enforcement of its sports ban, but some parents of transgender youth say recent measures like HB 675 will continue to take away their ability to make internal family decisions about what is best for their children.
Tennessee’s ban on ‘LGBTQ lifestyle issues’
Tennessee Sen. Rob Standridge authored HB 0800, which would bar any discussion, textbook, or instructional materials on “LGBT issues or lifestyle” in public schools. The bill suggests that these discussion materials “should be subject to the same restrictions and limitations placed on the teaching of religion in public schools.”
The reaction: Students and LGBTQ activists have taken to social media saying the bill causes more harm to LGBTQ youth.
The bill says books and instructional materials supporting LGBTQ issues and life experiences are anti-Christian and are less necessary than reading, writing and math.
What’s next? On Tuesday, HB 0800 has successfully passed through the House and is now moving to the full chamber. The Senate has not made much progress with the approval process. Gov. Bill Lee has not publicly weighed in on the legislation.
Oklahoma’s book ban
During a legislative session earlier this month, Oklahoma Rep. Justin Humphrey proposed SB 1142 prohibiting certain public school libraries from keeping books about “the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it.” Under the proposed legislation, if a parent/guardian requests the removal of a book for these reasons, and it is not removed, the parent gets paid $10,000 each day it stays on shelves.
This comes after a previous ban in Oklahoma prohibiting mandatory diversity training that includes lessons on race, gender and sexuality for public school university students, which was signed into law in May last year.
The reaction: SB 1142 comes after a parent complaint to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor. Parents were appalled by what some called obscene content in school library books, specifically those with LGBTQ-centered themes.
What’s next? The bill was passed by the Senate and now moves to the House floor.
The story has been updated to reflect that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed HB 1557, titled the “Parental Rights in Education” bill.
CNN’s Priya Krishnakumar, Devan Cole and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.