WASHINGTON – A series of anti-trans bills introduced in the House and Senate earlier this year have now won sufficient backing from Congressional Republicans to see them potentially succeed if the GOP secures majorities in both chambers after the midterm elections in November.
Should they pass, the bills would likely face a veto from President Joe Biden. However, according to a Reuters report Wednesday, the support of these measures among federal GOP lawmakers signals that many of the familiar battles over LGBTQ+ rights, particularly for transgender Americans, have moved from statehouses to Congress.
The bills introduced by House Republicans, which echo laws that have been enacted by conservative legislatures and governors across the country, are: (1) the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,” which would prohibit federal funding of universities whose athletics programs allow trans women to participate with their cisgender teammates; and (2) the “Protect Minors from Medical Malpractice Act of 2022,” which creates a private right of action for lawsuits against medical practitioners who provide gender-affirming healthcare to transgender minors.
Per Reuters, the draft bill excluding trans women from college athletics has been publicly backed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and has earned the support of 127 of 211 House Republican Members. Meanwhile, GOP Senators Tom Cotton (AR), Ted Cruz (TX), Marco Rubio (FL), Josh Hawley (MO), and Steve Daines (MT) have sponsored a version of the bill targeting healthcare providers.
A spokesperson for Rep. McCarthy did not immediately return a request for comment on the Leader’s position on the “Protect Minors from Medical Malpractice Act of 2022.”
Also introduced by House Republicans this spring was the “No Obscene Teaching in Our Schools Act of 2022” (alternatively titled the “NOT in Our Schools Act of 2022”), which blocks funding to schools that violate their respective states’ laws governing materials deemed harmful to minors, which have often been written to include those which contain discussion of race and LGBTQ+ subject matter.
Beth Littrell, supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), addressed the draft legislation in an exclusive emailed statement to The Los Angeles Blade:
“These federal anti-trans bills are shocking, sweeping and dangerous in their cruelty, scope and objectives. Instead of focusing on repressing people, stoking divisions, targeting the most vulnerable and attacking children and young people, legislators should be working to solve actual – not manufactured – crises like systemic racism, climate change, a crumbling democracy and adequate and equitable access to health care.”
Criticism of the draft legislation by LGBTQ+ advocates and allies, including from groups like the SPLC, has focused on its potential to cause further harm to transgender Americans and other members of the LGBTQ+ community who are disproportionately represented among victims of discrimination and violence and face higher rates of depression, self-harm behaviors, and suicide. Critics further argue that measures designed to restrict patients’ access to gender affirming healthcare (or those which are intended to discourage providers from offering it) conflict with well-established guidance from mainstream medical associations.
A spokesperson for the Endocrine Society referred The Blade to statements the organization made in February and in April. These concerned, respectively, a directive from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and a bulletin published by the Florida Department of Health, both of which were intended to restrict access to gender affirming healthcare for trans and gender-diverse youth.
The latter statement reads, in part: “The Florida Department of Health’s policy reflects widespread misinformation about gender-affirming care…Transgender and gender-diverse youth need access to evidence-based care that is supported by major international medical groups—including the Endocrine Society, American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics—and [the Endocrine Society’s] Clinical Practice Guidelines,” which contain “more than 260 scientific studies.”
“Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions” and “Widespread misinformation about medical care recommended for transgender and gender-diverse adolescents is fueling efforts to limit access to needed care,” including, the statement notes, in 20 states where these efforts have culminated in proposed legislation this year alone that would limit access to care.
Available on the ACLU’s website is a comprehensive list of active statewide anti-LGBTQ+ bills. The most popular laws are those which target transgender Americans (healthcare restrictions for trans youth, “single-sex facilities restrictions,” including what are colloquially termed “bathroom bills,” restrictions on trans people’s access to accurate government issued ID, the exclusion of trans youth from participation in sports, other school/curriculum restrictions, and other miscellaneous restrictions.)
Other bills allow for the denial of certain services to LGBTQ+ people, based on religious exemptions (healthcare, adoption and foster care, other/miscellaneous); or prohibit local governments from surpassing statewide nondiscrimination protections, such as by expanding them to cover LGBTQ+ people.
The SPLC notes that last year saw hundreds of such bills introduced across the United States as “anti-LGBTQ groups continue to peddle pseudo-science, spew demonizing rhetoric and further attack the LGBTQ community through legislation under the guise of “religious liberty.”
Confronted with the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in statehouses and now in Congress, Littrell told The Blade: “We will fight to stop these radical and regressive laws, but in a post-Roe, post-truth America, we need every voice and every vote to stand up and speak out for vulnerable minorities now under attack – especially the transgender community.”