Karine Jean-Pierre
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Arizona, Oklahoma Advance Spate of Anti-Trans Bills

Julie Daniels and John Kavanagh

Pictured: Backers of anti-trans legislation Sen. Julie Daniels of Oklahoma and Sen. John Kavanagh of Arizona

Arizona and Oklahoma had field days for anti-LGBTQ+ — and specifically anti-transgender — legislation Thursday, with lawmakers in both states approving multiple harmful bills.

In Arizona, the House passed Senate Bill 1138, which bans gender-affirming surgery for minors. Medical professionals do not generally recommend genital surgery for minors, so it is rarely performed on young people, but some transgender youth do undergo breast surgery, which is banned by the measure in addition to genital surgery. An earlier version of the bill would have banned puberty blockers or hormone treatment for minors, but it was amended. LGBTQ+ equality groups still see it as unnecessary interference in medical decisions made between young people, their parents, and health care providers.

Republican Sen. John Kavanagh, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that since Arizona legislators outlawed female genital mutilation in 2014, they should likewise ban any sort of genital surgery for young people. “We should stand the same way today because this is mutilation of children,” Kavanagh said, according to the Associated Press. “It is irreversible. It is horrific.”

Having already been OK’d by the Senate, the bill now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, as does Senate Bill 1165, barring transgender girls and women from participating in female sports in grades K-12 or colleges and universities. It applies to public schools plus any private school whose students or teams compete against public schools.

Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, also a Republican, called both to a vote Thursday while knowing several opponents would be absent, heading to a conference, notes a Human Rights Campaign press release. The HRC and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona are urging Ducey to veto both. “Transgender kids do not deserve to be the targets of dehumanizing attacks that invalidate their identity,” HRC Arizona State Director Bridget Sharpe said in the release. “For transgender young folks for whom this care this medically necessary, this bill could have serious, life-threatening consequences. And like all children, transgender youth deserve to participate in school athletic programs as their true selves, not forced to be isolated and dismissed by their schools. Transgender kids are just kids, and they deserve to play.”

In Oklahoma, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2, which would prohibit transgender students from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity; Senate Bill 9, which would expand the definition of obscene materials to include certain depictions of the LGBTQ+ community; and Senate Bill 1100, which would eliminate nonbinary gender markers from official documents. SB 2 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives last year, so it heads to Gov. Kevin Stitt. SB 9 and SB 1100 will head back to the Oklahoma House for consideration.

Republican Sen. Julie Daniels, who took the lead in advocating for the sports bill, claimed, like most backers of such legislation, that she was protecting women athletes. “Male and female is a biological reality,” she said, according to the Tulsa World. “Men have physical advantages over women. This is not something I need to explain. It is something known to everyone.” She could not, however, name any instance of a trans female — or, as she put it, a male — participating in Oklahoma school sports. And notably, both activists and scientists dispute that trans females have an inherent advantage over cisgender girls and women.

HRC stated its opposition to all the legislation. “Over the past 24 hours, Oklahoma legislators have decided to launch a full-on attack on LGBTQ+ rights, and particularly for transgender people,” HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a press release. “Their repeated attempts to deny transgender kids opportunity and ostracize members of the LGBTQ+ community are disgusting. In addition to denying transgender kids the social benefits that come from school sports, they are also working hard to ban inclusive gender markers, and define LGBTQ+ content as obscene. Simply, they are attacking the LGBTQ+ community to score political points with extreme elements within their party. The Human Rights Campaign strongly urges Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma House of Representatives to put the best interests of marginalized kids and individuals ahead of cheap political ploys and realize the damage that can be done if these dangerous bills pass.”

Stitt should follow the lead of his fellow Republican governors in Utah and Indiana and veto the sports bill, HRC added.

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