Transgender people are under attack like never before with more than three dozen proposed new laws across 16 states, according to a new report by the Human Rights Campaign.
“This deeply disturbing trend is a stark reminder of just how vicious and deplorable opponents of equality are in their relentless attacks against our community,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement emailed to The Advocate.
In all, HRC counts 44 bills targeting transgender people are in the works in 16 states. That’s more than twice as many as were introduced in all of 2015, and nearly two dozen of the measures focus on trans students.
HRC called the anti-trans legislation “unprecedented,” “harmful” and “alarming.” According to a release accompanying the report, some bills seek to make it harder for trans people to access gender-affirming health care, others deny trans people access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic teams that align with their gender identity.
And they are just a portion of what HRC called “a stunning surge of more than 175 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states this year.”
“HRC will continue to work with our state and national partners to vigorously oppose and work to defeat legislation that threatens the fundamental human rights of transgender people,” vowed Griffin in the statement. “As we work to defeat these discriminatory bills, we will also continue our efforts to advance critically-needed protections at the state, local, and ultimately the federal level for LGBT people all across this country.”
Last year, anti-LGBT lawmakers introduced at least 125 bills across the country. Of those, 21 specifically targeted trans people, and through the efforts of HRC and other activists, none became law.
Right now, South Dakota is on the verge of becoming the first state in the nation to prevent trans students from using restrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity. All it will take is the signature of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who has promised to meet with activists and allies this week before signing the bill, which appears likely given he is also meeting with some of the bill’s sponsors.
And while it may be the first, South Dakota is hardly alone. Other pending bills would deny transgender people equal access to restrooms in public places, “from the coffee shop to city hall,” according to HRC. The organization reports that nearly one-third of the anti-so-called “bathroom bills” would apply to multi-user restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities statewide in dozens of places. and violating the law, if passed, could lead to criminal prosecution of transgender people just for using restrooms that match their identity.
In addition, Georgia is paving the way in a movement to push First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) bills which would legalize discrimination against trans people. A measure approved by the Georgia senate last week is to be considered in the Georgia House of Representatives this week, and would explicitly permit publicly-funded programs to refuse service on the basis of “sincerely-held religious beliefs” that a person’s gender is determined by their anatomy at the time of birth.
Other states are considering measures that prevent transgender people from changing their gender marker on their birth certificates, from legally getting married and from accessing medically-necessary care.
These developments were eerily foreshadowed in a report last summer in The Advocate, titled "Necessary But Dangerous," in which the advent of marriage equality was seen as a potential catalyst to ramped-up discrimination against the transgender community.
Read the full report here.