Record Wave of Anti-LGBTQ Laws Proposed in 2023

In 2023, US state legislators introduced and passed an unprecedented number of laws targeting LGBTQ healthcare, public accommodations, and inclusive education. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported a total of 508 bills affecting the LGBTQ community, with 84 of them being enacted into law.

Impact on care

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The majority of enacted laws focused on preventing gender-affirming care for minors, restricting access for transgender youth to treatments such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries. The restrictions do not apply to cisgender or intersex youth.

More regulations

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Other laws prevent transgender students from being able to play on school sports teams, place restrictions on which bathrooms trans individuals can use at school or in other public places, and limit which LGBTQ topics can be taught in the classroom.

Controversial laws

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Multiple states also introduced “forced outing” bills that would require teachers to let parents know if a pupil had begun using different pronouns or a new name, without the consent of the student.

Increasing threats

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The year’s surge in legislation — more than twice the number of bills introduced than in 2022 — occurred alongside a rise in threats of violence against the community. Despite this, activists applaud lawmakers who stepped up to counteract the efforts and highlight the resilience of communities across the country.

No signs of stopping

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Gillian Branstetter, communications strategist at the ACLU, characterized 2023 as a devastating year for transgender people, citing attacks on safety, dignity, and freedom. Speaking to ABC News, she called the increase in legislation “an especially acute threat to our liberty and well-being, one we only expect to grow more dangerous in the next year.”

Supporter beliefs

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Supporters of anti-LGBTQ laws argue that gender transitioning is harmful to youth, advocating for patients to wait until they are older to make these health decisions. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, in a post to X, justified signing a bill to ban hormone therapy for transgender youth under 18 as a measure to “protect the health and wellbeing of Georgia’s children.”

Opposing stance

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On the contrary, several large national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, assert that gender-affirming care is “safe, effective, beneficial, and medically necessary.”

An ongoing battle

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A minimum of 14 laws impacting the LGBTQ community, including restrictions on gender-affirming care, drag, and LGBTQ content being taught in schools, remain entangled in legal battles. Despite 2023 having ended, legislative efforts in Ohio and Wisconsin continue to progress.

Fights on both sides

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Other states have taken the opposite approach. Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and California, to name a few, have passed protections for the LGBTQ community and implemented historic civil rights amendments, cultural competency programs in schools, bans on conversion therapy, and more.

Visibility and advocacy

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Despite the challenges, the LGBTQ movement has made strides in various sectors, including pop culture, politics, and religious spaces. Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD said, “The silver lining in this year of challenge is the way LGBTQ people and our allies showed up for our community and for everyone’s fundamental freedoms.”

Equality for all

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The Equality Act, designed to protect LGBTQ+ people from federal-level discrimination, was reintroduced in Congress amid a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. However, the act has yet to have much of an effect.

Recognizing wins

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Sarah Warbelow, VP of legal efforts at the Human Rights Campaign, acknowledged setbacks but highlighted the resilience of the LGBTQ community. Speaking to ABC News, she named a few of the year’s successes, “From Minnesota passing a conversion therapy ban into law to Michigan enacting its historic civil rights amendment protecting LGBTQ+ people.”

Looking ahead

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Despite facing challenges and setbacks in 2023, the importance of continued advocacy and the need to confront legislation that threatens the lives and rights of LGBTQ individuals is a shared sentiment among activists going into 2024.

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