Four state legislatures passed anti-LGBTQ bills this week as the 2021 onslaught against equality continues.
Arizona and Tennessee passed laws that ban teachers from mentioning LGBTQ people without parental approval. Alabama and North Dakota passed laws banning transgender girls from participating in school sports. All four states have Republican governors, so there is a good chance they will be signed into law.
President Joe Biden has already issued an executive order stating that Title IX bans discrimination against LGBTQ people in education, which means that these bills could face an uphill legal battle even if they are signed into law.
Tennessee’s H.B. 529 was sent to the governor on Wednesday after the state senate voted 64-23 in favor. The bill would require schools to notify parents if sexual orientation or gender identity are going to be mentioned in class 30 days in advance and gives parents the ability to opt their children out so that they don’t have to hear that LGBTQ people exist.
“As a parent, I find out when my child comes home what video they saw that day, not 30 days before so I can protect my own child from that,” Rep. Ryan Williams (R) said. “Our kids are young and impressionable, and what we allow in their minds is important.”
The bill allows teachers to mention the sexual orientation or gender identity of a historical figure if it provides “necessary context,” a phrase opponents of the bill said is vague.
Opponents of the bill also said that it will increase discrimination and bullying.
“How do you try to make people afraid of a certain population? Well, talk about how scary they are in school or refuse to acknowledge that they exist in school,” said HRC’s Cathryn Oakley. “It hurts everybody when LGBTQ people are excluded from those discussions.”
Tennessee passed a ban on transgender student-athletes last month.
Arizona passed a much harsher bill on the subject this past Wednesday. S.B. 1456 requires parental permission to opt students in to any discussion of LGBTQ people or HIV, taking a harsher stance on the subject than some states that allow parents to opt out. Only five other states have opt-in requirements for sex education, and Arizona’s bill will require “a double opt-in” for sex education that mentions LGBTQ people, according to the AP.
“In a way, it’s a subliminal way of trying to get anti-homosexual legislation put in, by saying you can’t speak or talk about it in schools,” said Alison Macklin of the organization SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. “We would never make that type of legislation around other historical movements.”
North Dakota’s senate passed a ban on transgender girls competing in school sports on Thursday on a 27-20 vote, a day after the state house passed it on Wednesday in a 69-25 vote. The state already has difficult requirements for transgender student-athletes, only allowing them to participate after a year of hormone therapy.
“This is not about hatred or love… this is about Title IX and women’s rights and girls’ rights to have an even playing field,” said Sen. Janne Myrdal (R), who supported the bill. “This is about feminism.”
The Biden administration has already issued an executive order saying that Title IX bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination because it’s impossible to discriminate against an LGBTQ person without taking their sex assigned at birth into account.
The North Dakota bill is a clear example of that – it allows some girls to compete in school sports while banning others, solely on the basis of their sex assigned at birth. A federal judge has already issued an injunction against a similar bill in Idaho.
The Republican-controlled Alabama House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill to ban transgender girls from competing in school sports this week. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has not yet said whether she will sign or veto the bill.
“We are spending too much time on craziness like this,” said Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, who said the discriminatory nature of the bill will give the state a “black eye.”
The NCAA, which governs college athletics, said in a statement that it “unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports. This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.”
“We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants,” the statement said, implying that large tournaments will be kept out of states that do not allow some athletes to compete.
Dozens of states are considering and passing anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ bills this year, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and just months after Republicans lost the White House and conservative activists were driven to attempt to overthrow the 2020 election results by rioting at the Capitol and calling for the death of former Vice President Mike Pence.
The coordinated effort backed by far-right organizations has Republican lawmakers all over the country parroting the same lines about how transgender girls are threatening to crowd cisgender girls out of school sports and deny them college scholarships, something that has never happened even though many states have allowed transgender students to compete as their gender for years.