US Republican transgender laws pile up, setting 2024 battle lines – Stock market news
(Reuters) – Oklahoma’s governor has signed into law a bill that would make it a crime to provide gender-affirming health care to a minor.
Indiana enacted a law that requires teachers to tell parents when students ask to be called by a new name or a different pronoun. North Dakota has approved a law that allows public school teachers and state employees to ignore the use of a transgender person’s preferred pronoun.
And the latest such action came in Florida on Wednesday when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that would ban gender-affirming medical treatments such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy for transgender youth – a measure that joins the growing list of state legislation that limits the rights of LGBTQ people.
This month’s flurry of bills, which are sure to attract court challenges, have become central to the Republican agenda in statistics across the country and ignited a so-called culture war in the United States that also includes abortion, gun rights and school curricula.
A group of Florida parents have already sued in federal court to try to stop a new law there.
For many political observers, these measures offer a preview of the 2024 elections, with Republicans portraying Democrats as out of touch on issues of gender and religion, and Democrats calling Republicans extremist and anti-democratic.
Republicans have introduced more than 500 bills affecting LGBTQ people in 2023, with at least 48 passing, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group. Those numbers are up from 315 bills introduced and 29 passed in 2022.
Most of those bills specifically affect transgender people, affecting almost every aspect of a transgender person’s public life. Some seek to ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports. Others require transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender assigned at birth or prevent transgender people from changing their gender on identity documents.
Neal Allen, chair of the political science department at Wichita State University, said it’s not yet clear whether the transgender issue will help Republicans beat Democrats in 2024, but that many Republicans are more concerned about an internal party challenge from the right.
“You have to win the first election first. And the vulnerability of most Republican state legislators right now is in the primary, if anything,” Allen said.
‘FLORIDA IS THE VANGUARD’
Among the governors at the forefront is DeSantis, who is expected to announce a bid for the Republican presidential nomination of the United States in 2024 next week. The bill he signed Wednesday also adds hurdles for transgender adults and gives courts jurisdiction in child custody battles in some cases involving gender-affirming care.
“I’ve been watching anti-trans legislation for four years now and I can tell you that Florida is the vanguard,” said Erin Reed, an independent researcher who tracks the bills. “You see it pushed into Florida, and then you see it coming out across the country.”
LGBTQ rights activists are pushing back.
Florida protesters threw underwear at state House Republicans from the gallery with messages such as “none of your business” and “leave my genitalia alone”.
Protesters stormed the Texas House, prompting lawmakers to send a bill banning gender-affirming care back to committee. The bill finally passed the legislature on Wednesday.
In Montana, the protests contributed to the censure of transgender state Representative Zooey Zephyr, who was banned from the state House floor by Republican lawmakers.
The administration of President Joe Biden entered the fray. Last month, the Justice Department asked Tennessee to challenge its Republican-backed ban on gender-affirming care for minors, one of several states where it has filed a complaint or supported lawsuits.
Some Republicans said they have momentum.
The State Freedom Caucus Network, a coalition of conservative lawmakers in 11 states, helped pass transgender-related bills in five states.
“In five to 10 years, I feel like the country is going to look back on this and realize it was a horrible mistake to let (gender-affirming care) happen,” said Andrew Roth, president of the network. “I think that’s the eventual conclusion of this.”
A recent Fox News poll found that 57% of respondents believe political attacks on families with transgender children are a big problem. A Data for Progress poll found 72% of Democrats, 65% of independents and 55% of Republicans think too much legislation is aimed at limiting LGBTQ rights.
But a Reuters/Ipsos poll from March found that 55% of respondents agreed that doctors should be banned from providing transgender treatment to minors, compared to 33% who disagreed.
Major pediatric, endocrinology and mental health associations endorse gender-affirming treatment such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy when appropriate, some calling it life-saving for many transgender youth.
But many Republican supporters of the bills distrust the prevailing medical consensus, which characterizes the treatments as dangerous and experimental. Some have called the measures chemical castration or child abuse.
As of 2021, at least 15 states have banned gender-affirming care for minors.
“It’s catastrophically wrong,” said Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign. “The number of young people who will lose access to medically necessary, best-practice and age-appropriate health care is truly frightening.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Paul Thomasch)
By Daniel Trotta