Politics

This ad airing during the NCAA tournament names & shames lawmakers pushing anti-trans laws

"Shame, shame, shame," the narrator of the Human Rights Campaign ad states while photos of Republican governors (from left to right, top to bottom) Kirsti Noem, Asa Hutchinson, Tate Reeves, and Bill Lee are shown.Photo: Screenshot/HRC

The Human Rights Campaign has begun airing a commercial calling out the slew of state lawmakers and Republican governors for their push to enact anti-trans legislation this year.

The ad made its television debut last night, airing during the NCAA March Madness tournament game between Oral Roberts University — a college with an anti-LGBTQ history of its own — and the University of Arkansas. The version that aired specifically focused on Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who just signed two laws that could harm trans people, and is poised to have another one delivered to his desk from the state legislature.

Related: Is your home state LGBTQ friendly? See how your state measures up.

“The ad has been purchased to air locally across Arkansas (Little Rock and Ft. Smith markets) as hundreds of thousands of Arkansans watch the University of Arkansas and underdog Oral Roberts University duke it out for a spot in the Elite 8 of the NCAA’s March Madness tournament,” the LGBTQ advocacy group announced on March 26.

That was one day after Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 354, which made Arkansas the third state this year to ban a group of trans youth from sports in school. He also signed a bill on the same day the ad came out, allowing medical workers to opt-out of providing treatment or services to people they conscientiously “object” to.

The ad is captioned on YouTube, “Arkansans need to see their Governor has failed them. He’s failed to effectively combat COVID-19, with Arkansas in the bottom 10 in vaccine distribution, and he’s failed his constituents, especially trans kids. It’s time he’s held accountable.”

The Campaign has also shared the ad online, garnering thousands of views over the weekend in response to the wave of anti-trans legislation that are inching toward becoming law, if they haven’t already, in states controlled by Republican-majority legislatures or Republican governors.

While several governors that have signed or support legislation targeting trans youth — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) — are included in the ad, the version aired during Saturday’s game specifically focused on Hutchinson.

One version shows all four governors while the narrator dictates at the end of the ad, “shame, shame, shame.” The other, which the Campaign placed throughout Arkansas, displays Hutchinson at this part.

“Hutchinson’s shameful decision to attack transgender children to score a few political points is absolutely abhorrent, and rooted in nothing but his animus towards LGBTQ people,” Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President, said in a statement.

“Despite numerous opportunities, not once were [state Republicans] able to name a single transgender athlete in the state of Arkansas. These bills are in search of a problem that does not exist and the Human Rights Campaign will be here to make sure Governor Hutchinson and any elected officials pushing for these discriminatory laws are held accountable.”

The focus on Hutchinson comes as state House Bill 1570 advances in the Arkansas General Legislature. If enacted into law, it would ban gender-affirming care of any kind, including surgery and hormone therapy, from being given to trans youth.

It is now being considered by the Arkansas state senate, passing the Public Health, Welfare, and Labor committee after passing the state house. The committee did not even discuss the bill, just simply passing it with a vote without hearing opposition.

The sponsor of House Bill 1570, Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R), “acknowledged that the surgeries her bill targets are not being provided to youth” and strips them of other care that is essential for trans youth, according to the Herald Leader.

The 30-second spot also makes note of the fact that the push for legislation targeting the rights of trans youth comes as a coronavirus pandemic continues, taking the lives of over 550,000 people in the last year and ravages the job market and economy.

“It is shocking that elected officials across the country are using their time and energy to attack LGBTQ kids, putting even more lives at risk,” the narrator states in the ad.

“Trans kids are kids. They don’t deserve this cruelty,” the narration also states.

A poll conducted by the Campaign and Hart Research Group last year found that at least 60% of Trump voters in 10 swing states said they believed trans people “should be able to live freely and openly,” the organization notes. They also state that leading child health and welfare organizations, 550 college athletes and over 600 corporations have formally opposed recent anti-trans legislation in the form of letters, petitions, and statements.

A recent USA Today opinion article by Hemal Jhevari, meanwhile, calls out Oral Roberts University’s history of “hateful anti-LGBTQ+ policy” such as condemning homosexuality twice in their student handbook, which remains in place today.

That sparked a mass reminder of the evangelical school’s anti-LGBTQ past and the legacy of the school’s namesake, televangelist Oral Roberts, as the school enjoyed public adoration from their basketball team’s success. That came to an end during Saturday’s game as they lost and were knocked from the tournament.

Arkansas will now allow medical workers to legally refuse treating LGBTQ people

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