LGBTQ+ group reveals national effort to “eliminate” queer people from public life

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Bans on gender-affirming care are just the tip of the iceberg that is a “coordinated effort to eliminate LGBTQ+ people of all ages from public life,” according to a new report by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), an organization that tracks policies on LGBTQ+ issues and voting.

The MAP’s five-part report on the national trend, entitled Under Fire, notes that states are restricting access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth and adults; passing religious exemptions to deny medical care for LGBTQ+ people; increasing the difficulty of obtaining accurate identity documents listing trans people’s correct gender identity; censoring coverage of LGBTQ+ issues in schools; and increasing the targeted harassment and violence of queer people, all while eroding voting rights.

“The number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in just the first two months of 2023 is more than the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in all of 2012, 2013, and 2014 combined,” the MAP wrote. “At the same time, concerted efforts are underway to reshape access to the ballot and undermine democracy; in 2023, at least 380 bills have been introduced in state legislators that would restrict voting and undermine democracy,” the group added.

Overall, MAP found that states with the highest rankings for LGBTQ+ equality also have the highest rankings for democracy and voting rights. Similarly, most states that score poorly for LGBTQ+ equality also score lower on democracy and voting rights. 

Bans against gender-affirming care don’t only target minors. Some state laws are trying to redefine “minors” to include adults up to age 26 or to exclude transition-related care from Medicare and state health insurance plans.

Concurrently, four states have banned trans and nonbinary people from updating the gender marker on their birth certificates — something that makes it difficult to obtain other forms of ID that are more commonly used on a day-to-day basis. Nine states ban trans people from using bathrooms and other facilities matching their gender identity. Ten states have passed policies that effectively make it illegal for schools to use a transgender student’s name and pronouns, and 23 states ban trans student-athletes from playing on sports teams matching their gender identity.

Numerous states have passed “Don’t Say Gay” laws censoring discussions of LGBTQ+ people, and multiple states have passed laws forbidding schools to accommodate trans students. These laws often allow people to sue or fire LGBTQ+-supportive teachers or to purge LGBTQ+-inclusive books from schools and public libraries.

Even worse, “Too many people face barriers to voting or live in gerrymandered states where they effectively aren’t able to elect lawmakers who reflect their values on LGBTQ equality and other issues,” said Brian Hinkle, Senior Voting Policy Researcher at MAP. “Our opponents know this and have spent years creating these systemic barriers on purpose for political gain.” 

MAP pointed out that 11 states have voter ID laws and bans on ballot drop boxes, and nine states allow their legislatures to interfere in elections. Numerous states have gerrymandered districts that make it harder to elect pro-LGBTQ+ legislators and vote out anti-LGBTQ+ ones. Conservatives have spent decades reshaping the federal judiciary into an instrument of partisan activism rather than a check on unfair laws. Republicans have also begun silencing lawmakers who disagree with anti-LGBTQ+ laws by kicking them out of the legislature, something that happened to trans Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D).

All of these efforts are also being supported by a rise of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric as well as violence and death threats targeting LGBTQ+ people and their allies. The MAP hasn’t yet released a comprehensive plan to combat this multi-layered threat, but the organization believes raising awareness of the trend is an important step towards combatting it.

“As horrifying political attacks continue targeting LGBTQ people, especially transgender people, it’s critical that we also keep advocating for voting rights and the principles of democracy that help us to move forward an inclusive vision for the world,” said Naomi Goldberg, MAP’s Deputy Director and LGBTQ Policy Director. “When our democracy is strong, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities can more effectively advance policies that benefit all of us.”

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