At the end of February, 2023 had already become the worst year for LGBTQ+ rights in recent American history. By March 1, lawmakers had introduced 351 anti-LGBTQ+ bills — a dozen more than in all of 2022, the previous worst year on record. If being record-breakingly hateful was the goal, this would have been the time to stop. They’d topped themselves. They could go home now. (Or do … literally anything else.)
You know how this ends, of course. Which is to say: It doesn’t.
The Big Takeaway
Republicans, laser-focused on protecting children by making life harder for children, are continuing to outpace their own pathetic precedent. In the last two weeks, they’ve introduced an additional 65 bills, bringing the national tally to a gobsmacking 420. Just 52 of those have been defeated. Nine have been signed into law; 17 have been introduced but not advanced. The rest — 338 bills — are still progressing through state legislatures.
Theoretically, that’s good news — those bills could still fail. But it’s hard to believe they will. Time and time again, LGBTQ+ advocates and kids and parents and medical providers have shown up at legislative hearings to explain how anti-LGBTQ+ bills are harmful and discriminatory and life-threatening and antithetical to science and experience and reality. Time and time again, Republicans have ignored them. Lather, bigotry, repeat.
The cycle began anew Monday in Florida, where Senate Republicans advanced a proposal that would outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, authorize felony charges for doctors who provide it and allow the state to revoke custody from parents who “subject” their child to treatment. The party-line vote followed testimony from more than 100 LGBTQ+ advocates and families, who cautioned lawmakers against playing politics with life-saving care, the Florida Phoenix reported.
“This dangerous bill is an extraordinary governmental overreach, even among efforts to ban gender-affirming care,” said Kirk Bailey, political director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “It will drastically threaten the lives of trans children either living in or visiting Florida.”
Testimony at the hearing was capped at 30 seconds, a change announced at the last minute by state Sen. Colleen Burton in a purported effort to ensure that everyone had a chance to speak. The announcement didn’t land well with opponents of the bill, many of whom had traveled for hours to tell their stories.
“I would like you to know that we brought children here that came six hours and you gave them 30 seconds to speak. That’s embarrassing,” said a representative of the Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida. “They’re worth more than 30 seconds of your time. I’m ashamed of you. Everyone in this room is ashamed of you. And you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Alas, the Republicans had no shame. After listening to transgender kids — and their parents, and their doctors — explain how the bill would endanger their lives, state Sen. Clay Yarborough thanked them for their testimony. Your lives do have value, he said.
“I believe we need to let kids be kids,” Yarborough, the Republican who filed the bill, told the crowd of real-life kids and parents. “And our laws need to set appropriate boundaries that respect the rights and responsibilities of parents while protecting children from the very serious health and safety concerns associated with these treatments.”
The crowd was then immediately ushered from the room. Their next chance to speak is a legislative hearing before the Senate Fiscal Policy committee, which has yet to be scheduled.
A strikingly similar scene played out a day later at a committee hearing in Georgia, where Republicans advanced a ban on gender-affirming care for minors in the name of “protecting children” despite testimony from transgender people who said they would likely be dead if not for the gender-affirming care they’d received as minors, per the Georgia Recorder.
“Although I could greatly explain the positive impact that transitioning has had on my life, I think that it’s more important for me to talk about if I hadn’t received that care,” said Leonardo Hinnant, an 18-year-old transgender man who started hormone therapy at 13 and had a double mastectomy at 15. “I would not be here. This bill would restrict essential care for transgender minors, care that I know is the reason that I am living today. The reality of it is this: If this bill passes, transgender kids will die.”
But the personal experience of a person whose life was saved by gender-affirming care was no match for the surety of state Sen. Carden Summers, the Republican who sponsored the bill. Sure, “a lot of people” might not “think” the “Protect Children Act” works for everyone — but Republicans “tried to be as liberal in our thoughts as possible,” and that’s really all they can do, you know? The children must be protected from the gender-affirming care that protects them! It’s right there in the name!
“We don’t want anybody to have gender surgeries under the age of 18 years old. We want them to make their own decisions,” Summers said of the bill that literally deprives parents and children of the right to make their own decisions. “At 18 years old, whatever they decide to do is their business.”
So steadfast was Summers that he did not even blink when asked why his bill goes against the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (“Can’t speak to that article,” he said of the group’s policy statement. “Never read it.”) His stalwart convictions did not waver even when confronted with the hypocrisy of championing parents’ rights for things like “keeping the kids from finding out that not everyone is white and cisgender,” but not for “getting kids the medical care they need.” (Medical professionals need rights too, Summers said. “I don’t want to call any names here, but I’ve had many doctors call and say, ‘This gives us some cover, too, because a lot of surgery we’re asked to do, we don’t want to do these surgeries.’”)
The small-government crowd was not even bothered by the fact that a law authorizing the government to meddle in medical practice would be an unprecedented step in Georgia. Sure, that’d be a first here, said Republican Sen. Ben Watson — but not in parts of Europe, where individual doctors have decided they will no longer provide hormone therapy or perform surgery on transgender kids.
“I think that you’ll see, if you look at the Netherlands or Sweden, you’ll see that the pendulum is starting to swing back, it’s started to swing back in Europe, it’s started to swing back here in the United States,” he said. “And I think that most reasonable people will feel that surgery and sex change hormones, which are irreversible for minors, is not an appropriate procedure.”
I’m not quite sure how the (alleged) choices of a few (alleged) doctors in Europe are relevant to the discussion of a bill that would limit choices among doctors in America. (In any other context, Republicans are extremely uninterested in the health policy of European countries.) I’m also not sure how Watson, a literal doctor, is not aware that gender transition surgery is generally not performed on minors, or that transgender kids may begin considering hormone therapy by the age of 16.
But mostly, I’m not sure how Republicans can defend any of this with a straight face. Bills like this one — which would subject doctors to criminal and civil charges for providing hormone therapy and surgery for anyone under the age of 18 — fly directly in the face of everything the GOP claims to stand for. Supporting the legislation is a direct disavowal of the Georgia Republican Party, which champions “the right of every parent to act in their child’s best interest regarding health and education decisions,” seeks to preserve “limited government” and “the rights of the people,” and celebrates “the right of all Americans to enjoy their God-given liberties,” including “the pursuit of happiness.”
And you’d think that would be concerning, wouldn’t you? It seems like lawmakers should be hesitant to champion policies that go against everything they stand for. It seems like they should worry about abandoning their principles. But they’re so eager to do it that it almost makes you wonder if they have any principles at all.
The tangled web they weave: (Wisconsin) Assembly lawmakers pass school crime bills, uphold conversion therapy … Arkansas governor signs law allowing malpractice suits for transgender minors’ health care … Kentucky legislature advances anti-trans bill … (Kentucky) Republican senator proposes rewrite of anti-trans legislation, other floor amendments filed … Maine librarians fight bill to ban books considered ‘obscene’ … Federal judge at center of FDA abortion drug case has history with conservative causes … (Vermont) In North Country Supervisory Union, officials fear that federal money will subsidize discrimination
Caught Our Eye
Welcome aboard to the Rhode Island Current, our newest outlet as of Wednesday! Among the array of first-day headlines is this story about the struggle to protect the North American right whale from ship strikes and net entanglements without also decimating commercial fisheries.
“We have many thousands of people in Rhode Island who make a living as commercial fishermen, and I know it’s more than just a living,” former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo told federal lawmakers at a legislative hearing last year. “It’s a culture, it’s a way of life and it’s a living. I understand that and want to work with you to find a solution. I wish I had an easy solution here.”
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
Somewhere in Illinois there is a porcupine named Sal who loves bananas, and I just thought you should know that.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website or Facebook signup form.
TO MANAGE YOUR ACCOUNT, CLICK ON "UNSUBSCRIBE" BELOW