Record number of state bills in 2021 impact transgender rights, advocacy group says

The Human Rights Campaign has tracked 82 anti-transgender bills.

March 12, 2021, 7:00 AM

State legislators have filed a record number of bills this year that would impact the rights of transgender people, according to an LGBTQ advocacy group.

There have been 82 such bills introduced so far this legislative session, surpassing all of last year's total of 79, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking anti-trans legislation for over a decade.

"Today's milestone serves as a reminder of the intensity of our opposition and just how hard we must continue to work to overcome discrimination and exclusion," Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. "Progress in the fight for equality has always come in fits and starts but nevertheless marches forward. We know we are on the right side of history."

The latest bills tracked by the organization, which were all introduced this week, focus on gender-affirming medical care and athletics -- two prominent issues this legislative session that would impact transgender youth in particular.

They include a South Carolina House bill and a Texas Senate bill that would prohibit gender-affirming treatment, such as puberty blockers and surgery on a minor, and a Michigan Senate bill that would bar high school students from competing on teams consistent with their gender identity.

Before the Brevard County School Board meeting in Viera, Fla., on March 9, 2021, opposing groups gathered regarding public school guidelines for LGBT and transgender students.
Tim Shortt/Florida Today via Imagn Content Services via USA Today

Similar legislation has been introduced in over two dozen states, with most still active. Sponsors say the bills are to protect women's sports and minors, who they say are too young to make decisions on transition-related medical care, while LGBTQ advocates say the legislation is discriminatory, unnecessary and detrimental for trans youth.

So far this year, two states -- South Dakota and Mississippi -- have passed bills that would restrict transgender girls and women from participating in female sports leagues. Gov. Kristi Noem said Monday that she would sign South Dakota's bill, and Gov. Tate Reeves signed Mississippi's on Thursday.

"I proudly signed the Mississippi Fairness Act to ensure young girls are not forced to compete against biological males," Reeves said.

The Mississippi law is set to go into effect July 1, though it will likely be met with legal challenges. After Idaho passed a similar measure last year, a federal district court suspended the law and it has yet to be enacted.

The ACLU of Mississippi charged the bill ostracizes transgender children.

"SB 2536 isn't about protecting fairness in women’s sports. It's about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life," the organization said in a statement. "It’s about creating solutions to problems that don't exist. Not once have the supporters of this bill cited an actual dispute over this issue in Mississippi."

The record state legislation comes as the Biden administration has focused on advancing gender equity and equality. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order combatting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, which stated in part, "Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports."

According to a recent Gallup poll, a record 5.6% of United States adults identify as LGBT. About 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender, the poll found.

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