LGBTQ+ Americans are facing a state of emergency as states continue targeting them with legislation, the community’s largest advocacy organization has declared.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has issued a statement on the emergency that emerged from “an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year”.
The declaration, made during the first week of Pride month, echoes similar ones issued by other civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, which warned travelers that Florida in particular is “actively hostile” to minorities in the wake of measures such as the state’s “don’t say gay” law, which bans discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in public classrooms.
The HRC president, Kelley Robinson, said: “LGBTQ+ Americans are living in a state of emergency. The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived – they are real, tangible and dangerous. In many cases they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, and triggering a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that puts the safety of each and every one of us at risk.”
The organization has been tracking the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ laws and compiled the information in an impact report that shows 115 bills were introduced in 2015 compared with more than 500 in 2023.
According to the report, “the 2023 state legislative session was the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.”
Anti-transgender legislation made up a significant part of this count.
Far-right groups such as the Family Policy Alliance, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation are behind the push for these discriminatory policies. The groups have drafted model legislation and garnered support from legislators. Many have also offered financial support for legal fees to fight when laws were challenged in court.
In 2022, the Heritage Foundation ran advertisements totaling more than $1m targeting the Biden-backed Respect for Marriage Act that secured protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in the event that the conservative majority on the supreme court overturns the 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the US.
The HRC also curated a guidebook for LGBTQ+ Americans to arm them with information about their rights. It includes a detailed chart of existing anti-LBTGQ+ laws such as those that ban gender-affirming care, sports participation and drag shows across each state.
The Florida governor and Republican candidate Ron DeSantis has signaled his stance on LGBTQ+ rights by signing laws that would ban gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy; prevent trans students from using their preferred pronouns; restrict drag shows; and make it difficult or impossible for transgender Floridians to access appropriate restrooms and spaces that match their gender identity.
However, on Tuesday afternoon a federal judge temporarily blocked portions of the new Florida law that bans transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers, ruling after a challenge to the law signed by DeSantis that the state has no rational basis for denying patients treatment.
Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction, saying three transgender children can continue receiving treatment. The ruling was narrowly focused on the children, whose parents brought the suit.
“Gender identity is real. The record makes this clear,” Hinkle said, adding that even a witness for the state agreed.
Meanwhile, another Republican gunning for the highest office is the former US ambassador to the UN and ex-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who has said Biden’s “support of transgender rights will destroy women’s sports”.
Haley also opposed same-sex marriage rights while she served in South Carolina’s state legislature and as the state’s governor.