Metro Weekly

285 Anti-LGBTQ Bills Have Been Introduced in 2024 — So Far

Advocates predict a continuing flood of legislation in the upcoming year seeking to effectively erase or criminalize LGBTQ existence.

Illustration: Todd Franson

GOP lawmakers have continued to introduce anti-LGBTQ bills, with the number totaling 285 as of January 18. 

With most state legislative sessions only beginning this month, lawmakers are pushing for additional measures to restrict LGBTQ visibility, with 71 bills seeking to make it harder for transgender individuals to access gender-affirming health care.

At least 21 of the bills seek to ban drag performances, seven would prevent transgender individuals from obtaining state IDs with gender markers matching their gender identity, and 130 bills seek to ban LGBTQ content from school libraries or curriculum, according to a tracker developed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to the ACLU, Oklahoma currently has the most proposed anti-LGBTQ bills with 36 — though many of them are redundant, with lawmakers introducing their own versions of nearly identical bills.

The state with the next highest number of bills is Missouri, which has introduced 28, and South Carolina, which has introduced 26.

Most of the bills target the transgender community, taking the form of efforts to either redefine transgender existence out of law or place restrictions on transgender people’s ability to self-identify, access spaces, or receive services that affirm their gender identity.

More than 200 bills focus on educational matters, including proposed athlete bans, curriculum censorship bills, and at least 38 requiring LGBTQ-identifying students to be outed to their parents in the name of “parental rights.”

Another 120 seek to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for trans-identifying minors, with some even seeking to require transgender adults to overcome a number of bureaucratic or regulatory obstacles to receive transition-related treatments, which critics say is an attempt to frighten medical providers into refusing to see transgender patients altogether.

Already, 24 states have passed some form of restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors, resulting in a flood of legal challenges from families with transgender children and from doctors who are penalized for prescribing gender-affirming care under the laws.

While most lower-level federal courts temporarily blocked such bans last year, only one statewide ban, in Arkansas, has been declared unconstitutional.

Other bans in Indiana, Montana, and Florida remain blocked, although bans in states like Texas, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and Alabama — all under the jurisdiction of the conservative-leaning 5th, 6th, and 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals — have been allowed to go into effect. 

“Transgender people across the country are enduring a historic and dangerous effort to control our bodies and our lives, fueled by extremist politics with the goal of erasing us from public life,” Harper Seldin, an attorney with the ACLU, told The Hill. “Taken together, these proposals are a blatant effort to deny transgender people the freedom to be ourselves at school, at work, and the support of the medical care many of us need to live.”

As transgender advocate and journalist Erin Reed has noted in her “Erin in the Morning” Substack, the type of anti-LGBTQ bills being released this year seems to indicate that lawmakers have ramped up the cruelty and moved the goalposts, offering up bills that go well beyond what was introduced in past sessions. 

“In South Carolina, one bill would ban Medicaid coverage for gender affirming care up to the age of 26, expanding restrictions on care far into the adult age range,” Reed notes. “In Missouri, a bathroom ban has been proposed that states that transgender people using the bathroom violates the rights of cisgender people, and would enforce adult trans bathroom bans in the state through the Missouri Human Rights Commission. In Ohio, legislators are attempting to rush through a trans adult bathroom ban in colleges…

“Among the most concerning bills in this legislative cycle are those introduced in Florida, which appear aimed at the complete eradication of transgender existence by ending all legal recognition and significantly limiting medical care,” Reed writes, citing proposed legislation to expand the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law to workplaces and another bill that would bar state entities from recognizing a person’s gender identity as true or valid.

The latter bill could result in the revocation of transgender people’s driver’s licenses. It would require insurers to cover the cost of conversion therapy seeking to “cure” feelings of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.

At a January 18 press conference, the Human Rights Campaign warned of the forthcoming attacks from lawmakers in the upcoming state legislative sessions.

“As I have been saying now for the last several years, this year is going to see a record number of anti-LGBTQ legislation,” Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s senior director of legal policy, said. “And I’m unfortunately here to tell you the same thing again. We are already seeing a very high volume of legislation.”

Oakley noted HRC is currently tracking more than 400 bills, including “more than 200 that we outright oppose.”

Among the bills that Oakley and other advocates are expecting to see debated, and potentially passed, this year are a slew of “Don’t Say LGBTQ+”-style bills, book bans, classroom censorship laws, bans on gender-affirming care, and legislation that denies any legal recognition of transgender people by rewriting state laws to define “sex” as fixed, binary, and based on a person’s reproductive anatomy.

All of these bills are truly about making the idea of LGBTQ people’s existence obscene,” Oakley warned. “Mentioning us, acknowledging us, including us in stories, treating art forms that have been associated with LGBTQ people differently, even when they’re speaking to the same audiences as other types of art.

“And I think it is important to really note that ultimately, none of these are about the things that they say they’re about,” she continued. “None of these are, in fact, about religious freedom. None of these are even about drag. None of these are about whether or not trans kids have the ability to use a restroom consistent with their gender identity or not. … It’s about trying to ostracize LGBTQ people, and particularly transgender people.”

“2024 is going to be about fighting back against attacks on academic freedom. It’s going to be about fighting back against attacks on medical freedom and the freedom to simply be our authentic selves,” Brandon Wolf, the national press secretary for HRC, added.

Wolf also noted that resistance is deeply rooted in the history of the LGBTQ community, which offers a glimpse of hope. 

“While yes, we are amidst this national state of emergency — a moment, quite frankly, of ferocious backlash to the progress we’ve won — we’re also in a moment of really inspiring resistance,” Wolf said. “There are parents organizing across the country to protect their families. There are students marching across the country to protect their futures. Attacks on people’s freedoms are wildly out of touch with the American people, who continue to reject this naked bigotry in the polls and at the ballot box.”

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