Article

State Attacks Against LGBTQI+ Rights

Learn more about the discriminatory anti-LGBTQI+ bills advancing in states across the country and what can be done to oppose these damaging legislative attacks.

A protestor in front of the Minnesota capitol holds a sign reading
Minnesotans hold a rally at the state capitol to support transgender kids around the country in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 6, 2022. (Getty/Michael Siluk)

Across the country, extremist anti-LGBTQI+ and anti-transgender groups are waging a coordinated campaign to restrict LGBTQI+ rights and target transgender youth specifically. According to the Center for American Progress’ partners at the Equality Federation, nearly 400 anti-LGBTQI+ bills were introduced across the country in 2021.* In 2022, state legislatures are currently considering approximately 300 anti-LGBTQI+ bills. Unfortunately, legislators in multiple states—such as Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and others—have already enacted anti-LGBTQI+ bills since the start of 2022. In total, there are currently 14 states with laws categorically banning transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, and four have adopted laws or taken executive action to ban or restrict access to medically necessary, best-practice gender-affirming care for transgender youth. These anti-LGBTQI+ attacks endanger the fundamental rights and well-being of LGBTQI+ communities.

300

Approximate number of anti-LGBTQI+ bills introduced being considered in 2022

29

Number of states where LGBTQI+ people are not fully protected from discrimination

Not only does the passage of these measures directly harm states’ LGBTQI+ communities, but data also show that just the introduction of these kinds of bills—which are often fueled by hateful and misinformed rhetoric—adversely affects LGBTQI+ communities, especially youth. For example, data from The Trevor Project show that 66 percent of LGBTQ youth, including 85 percent of transgender and/or nonbinary youth, report that recent debates around state laws to restrict the rights of transgender people have negatively affected their mental health. Learn more about the proliferation of anti-LGBTQI+ bills and the 2022 legislative landscape for LGBTQI+ rights here.

To bring attention to the dramatic increase in anti-LGBTQI+ legislation in states across the country, CAP has started the “State of LGBTQI+ Rights” newsletter. The newsletter contains up-to-date tallies on the number of anti-LGBTQI+ bills active in state legislatures, highlights important action requests from local partners with whom readers can easily engage, lifts up content that can be used to raise awareness, and provides helpful resources that explain the harms of these bills.

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What kinds of anti-LGBTQI+ legislative attacks are occurring in states?

Several kinds of discriminatory anti-LGBTQI+ bills are advancing through state legislatures throughout the country:

  • Bans on transgender youth participation in school sports: These bills prohibit transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. These unnecessary and harmful bills deprive transgender students of the well-being, educational, and social benefits of equal participation in sports.
  • Bans on health care for transgender youth: These bills restrict transgender and nonbinary youth from accessing gender-affirming, medically necessary care that aligns with current best practices and can be lifesaving. In fact, all relevant major medical associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association—agree that gender-affirming care is medically necessary for transgender youth.
  • Curriculum censorship: These bills ban or significantly limit the content that schools can teach about race, racism, history, sexism, and LGBTQI+ people and issues, undermining the expertise of trained educators and fostering a hostile learning environment for students.
  • Restrictions on using single-sex facilities: These pieces of legislation subject transgender people to discrimination by denying them access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. Evidence demonstrates these policies harm the health, safety, and well-being of transgender people.
  • Restricted access to accurate identification: These bills impose burdensome and intrusive requirements and prohibitive costs that create barriers for transgender and gender nonconforming people seeking to alter their gender markers on their identification documents—such as driver’s licenses and passports—to accurately reflect their lived gender. Consistent, accurate identification documents are essential for completing many everyday tasks, and gender incongruent identification can result in discrimination and violence.
  • Licenses to discriminate: These pieces of legislation impose overly broad religious exemptions that remove crucial safeguards that protect people accessing government-funded services from discrimination on the basis of religion. These bills can apply to a variety of settings, such as taxpayer-funded child welfare services and health care.

Recent resources from the LGBTQI+ Research and Communications Project

Fair Play
Report A teacher plays softball with a group of students, May 2019. (Getty/Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)

Fair Play

Shoshana K. Goldberg

Partner resources

The LGBTQI+ Research and Communications Project partners with many LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations at the state and national levels that are working hard to combat these anti-LGBTQI+ attacks. Interested in learning more details on state-specific activities and diving deep into the harms of these bills? Check out some of these incredible resources from our partners:

  • For more details on state-specific bills in your state and across the country, check out these interactive maps from the Equality Federation.
  • Policy deep dives and state maps on bills banning transgender students from participating in schools sports, prohibiting transgender youth from accessing best-practice medical care, restricting access to identification documents, and censoring school curricula are available from the Movement Advancement Project.
  • To learn more about issues affecting LGBTQ youth, take a look at the latest data from The Trevor Project.
  • Polling data from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute illustrates the broad and diverse base of support for nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQI+ communities.

Take action to defend LGBTQI+ rights

The need to pass the Equality Act

Discrimination remains a real and pervasive problem for LGBTQI+ people. LGBTQI+ Americans are not fully protected from discrimination in 29 states, and according to a nationally representative survey conducted in 2020 by the Center for American Progress and NORC at the University of Chicago, more than 1 in 3 LGBTQI+ adults faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including 2 in 5 LGBTQI+ people of color and more than 3 in 5 transgender individuals.** With these state-level attacks against LGBTQI+ rights poised to continue, the need for the Senate to pass the Equality Act grows more and more urgent. The Equality Act would strengthen and expand federal civil rights laws to ensure clear, consistent, and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQI+ people in all states. Check out the Center for American Progress’ deep dive on the importance of the Equality Act’s nondiscrimination protections, and act now to tell your senator to pass this crucial civil rights legislation.

You can follow the work of the LGBTQI+ Research and Communications Project on Twitter @LGBTQProgress.

* Bill counts are based on the Equality Federation’s “2021 Legislative Report.” The report, provided to the Center for American Progress by the Equality Federation on January 21, 2022, is on file with the authors.

** This survey, which includes a sample of 1,528 LGBTQI+-identifying adults, was jointly conducted by the Center for American Progress and NORC at the University of Chicago and has been weighted to account for both U.S. population characteristics and survey nonresponse. The full results of the study, as well as a detailed overview of the methodology, are on file with the authors. For additional information on survey results, please see the Center for American Progress’ related report and data interactive.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Authors

Caroline Medina

Senior Policy Analyst

Sharita Gruberg

Vice President, LGBTQI+ Research and Communications Project

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