Rising anti-LGBTQ legislation prompts warnings, challenges from rights groups

A rising number of anti-LGBTQ+ rights bills have been introduced in state legislatures controlled by Republicans in 2023. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
1 of 3 | A rising number of anti-LGBTQ+ rights bills have been introduced in state legislatures controlled by Republicans in 2023. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 12 (UPI) -- A rising number of anti-LGBTQ rights laws are being passed and proposed in statehouses across the United States impacting millions of people.

The Human Rights Campaign has declared an extraordinary national state of emergency warning of the dangers posed by hostile legislation, while HRC and Equality Florida in May joined the NAACP in issuing travel advisories about marginalized people traveling to Florida due to hostile legislation and state government actions.


More than 75 anti-LGBTQ bills have been signed into law in 2023, according to the HRC. "LGBTQ+ Americans Under Attack," an HRC report published last week, said 525 bills were introduced in 41 state legislatures over the last year, including more than 220 targeting transgender people.

"These laws are fueled by an anti-LGBTQ Republican establishment -- and coordinated, well-funded extremist groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Foundation and the Family Policy Alliance -- insistent on trying to control our families and lives," the report said.


2023 legislation

The ACLU is tracking 63 of these anti-LGBTQ rights laws passed this year.

North Dakota leads with 10 laws targeting LGBTQ rights, followed by Texas with nine, Arkansas with eight and Florida and Tennessee with four each. Republicans control the governor's offices and statehouses in each of those states.

Texas, according to HRC, has seen more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced with more than 25 advancing through the legislature. Texas accounts for more than 20% of the 2023 bills introduced.

All of the anti-LGBTQ rights laws tracked by the ACLU were passed by states with GOP-controlled legislatures.

The laws, according to the ACLU, target LGBTQ people on civil rights against discrimination, rights to free speech and expression, healthcare, public accommodations and in schools and education.

HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a statement there is a competing effort to enshrine protections for LGBTQ individuals into law.

"The good news is that for every Florida, there's a Michigan, which became the 22nd state to sign LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections into law. And for every Texas, there's a Pennsylvania, where because of our partnership and work and advocacy, they are on the cusp of becoming the 23rd state to put LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections on the books. And for every Tennessee, there's a Minnesota, where they banned so-called 'conversion therapy' this year," Robinson said.


HRC also sounded the alarm about what it sees as simultaneous human rights attacks by many states on teaching Black history and abortion rights while passing anti-LGBTQ rights laws.

"These same states do nothing to ensure the freedom of children to be safe from gun violence and do nothing to protect the freedom of democracy when Black and trans voices are silenced in state legislatures," Robinson said in the HRC statement.

Laws targeting transgender rights have been especially prominent, with anti-trans legislation passed in 22 states in 2023, according to

In Montana, HRC said that SB 458 enacted into law adopts an anti-LGBTQ definition of "sex" that now impacts the entirety of Montana law.

That law denies the existence of gender identities other than the cisgender male and female.

"In human beings, there are exactly two sexes, male and female, with two corresponding gametes" the law states. "The sexes are determined by the biological indication of male or female, including sex chromosomes, gonads, and non-ambiguous internal and external genitalia present at birth, without regard to an individual's psychological, chosen or subjective experience of gender."

A similar law, HB 239, has been enacted into law that also imposes a binary definition of sex and gender. The bill summary said, "this bill defines 'sex' as a person's immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth and evidence of a person's biological sex."


Legal challenges

Last week, a Florida federal judge blocked a narrow portion the state's ban on gender-affirming care after four families challenged the law, alleging that it will cause irreparable harm to transgender young people.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle sided with the families and said "gender identify is real" and gender-affirming treatment is medically necessary.

Lamda Legal is expecting a ruling soon on its lawsuit that challenged Florida's ban on Medicaid coverage of gender-affirming care enacted last year. They say they also included a challenge to SB 254, which was signed into law last week.

"Despite this administration's rhetoric to the contrary, this is about a curtailment of fundamental liberties and state government overreach into our schools, families and healthcare," ACLU of Florida Executive Director Tiffani Lennon said in a statement. "These laws do nothing to protect liberty and freedoms. The only 'winners' are those who want to see a bigger, more invasive government."

In Tennessee, a federal judge ruled a state law banning drag performances is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech.

In May, the ACLU filed suit against Legislative Bill 574, a Nebraska law that bans abortion after 12 weeks and also restricts healthcare for trans youth beginning in October.


The Utah ACLU and the National Center For Lesbian Rights are challenging SB16, a law passed this year banning transgender surgeries for children and teens. The ACLU said it is "riddled with numerous constitutional issues."

SB 480, an Indiana law passed in April barring access to gender-affirming care, is being challenged by a federal suit alleging it violates the U.S. Constitution. The suit filed by the ACLU on behalf of four Indiana families asserts that the law also violates the Medicaid Act and Affordable Care Act by prohibiting essential medical services.

A law in Alabama banning gender-affirming care would put medical professionals in prison for up to 10 years. Two families, with the ACLU's help, are suing to overturn it.

An Alabama law that deprives transgender people of driver licenses that reflect their gender is also being contested in court by the ACLU.

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