News (USA)

Arizona governor signs two executive orders protecting LGBTQ+ rights

Gov. Katie Hobbs
Gov. Katie Hobbs Photo: Gage Skidmore

On Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) signed two executive orders to protect LGBTQ+ people.

The first bans state agencies from promoting or funding conversion therapy, the harmful and widely condemned practice in which therapists use pseudoscientific theories to turn LGBTQ+ people straight and cisgender.

The second order allows state employee health insurance plans to cover gender-affirming surgery, removing a 2017 policy that banned plans from doing so. It also prohibits state agencies from cooperating with criminal and civil cases in states that have banned gender-affirming care.

“Together these executive orders bring an end to unjust discrimination against LGBTQ+ Arizonans,” said Hobbs, who beat right-wing extremist and election denier Kari Lake in the race for governor. “The state is leading by example on this issue, and we will continue working until Arizona is a place where every individual can participate equally in our economy and our workforce without fear of discrimination or exclusion. This is the only way to move our state forward.”

According to AZ Central, Hobbs’s administration could not share an example of a state agency currently funding conversion therapy but said the order would ensure it never happened.

But the fact that it may not actually change much didn’t prevent conservative ire.

“What she calls ‘conversion therapy’ amounts to basic counseling for those struggling with their gender,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-LGBTQ+ Center for Arizona Policy. “It is likely unconstitutional to tell therapists what they can say and citizens what therapy they can seek.”

Herrod accused Hobbs of a “power grab” that is “not only partisan” but also “unwise and dangerous.”

The health care order will likely lead to the end of a 2019 lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of trans University of Arizona professor Russell Toomey, who was fighting for coverage for gender-affirming surgery.

A statement from Toomey said Hobbs’s order “provides unexplainable relief and care to the state-sanctioned suffering that I and other transgender Arizonans have endured for several years. I see this action as hope that our collective future in Arizona is one that allows trans people, like myself, to live lives full of joy and unrestricted opportunity.”

The ACLU wrote that the “landmark order” means the organization will file a motion to settle the case.

“Governor Hobbs used her executive pen to take bold, and most importantly, life-saving action,” said ACLU of Arizona senior staff attorney Christine Wee. “Not only were trans state employees categorically denied gender-affirming healthcare, but they were also denied the opportunity to even demonstrate why such surgery is medically necessary. We look forward to filing a proposed settlement and finally achieving equal healthcare coverage for all state employees.”

Since taking office in January, Hobbs has made it clear she prioritizes LGBTQ+ rights. On her first day in office, she signed an executive order extending employment protections to state employees and contractors who are LGBTQ+.

Earlier this month, she vetoed a bill that would have banned trans students from using the appropriate restrooms at school.

“S.B. 1040 is yet another discriminatory act against LGBTQ+ youth passed by the majority at the state legislature,” Hobbs wrote in her short letter explaining her veto. “As I stated in my veto letter for S.B. 1001, I will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children.”

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