Culture

Anti-Transgender Bills: What They Would Ban and Where They're Being Considered

Sports bans, prohibitions on transition-related care and more have been proposed in at least 32 states.

A March 13 rally opposing Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill.
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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would ban transgender girls in middle and high school from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. The Republican-dominated state legislature is expected to override his veto when it reconvenes next week.  

In his veto message, Beshear, a Democrat, said the Fairness in Women's Sports Act failed to address any issues not already covered by current school athletics guidelines.

"Transgender children deserve public officials' efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our communities through compassion, kindness and empathy, even if not understanding," Beshear said.

Kentucky is one of an estimated 32 states considering more than 130 anti-trans bills, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBTQ advocacy group. 

Here's what you need to know about the bills under consideration around the country, including what the measures entail and which states are considering them.

'Don't say gay' laws

On Mar. 28, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill prohibiting discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade "or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students." The so-called "Don't Say Gay" act sparked fierce opposition, including a walkout by Disney employees who were angry that Bob Chapek, the company's chief executive officer, didn't initially take a public stance against the legislation.

At a signing ceremony, DeSantis, a Republican, said the Parental Rights in Education Act "will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination."

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About 60 Walt Disney Co. employees walked off the job in Glendale, California, to protest their company's reluctance to publicly fight Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law. Disney has now said it will work to get the law repealed.

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Critics of the measure say its vagueness leaves educators vulnerable, given that it allows parents to sue school districts if they believe the act has been violated. A lawsuit challenging the law alleges it violates students' rights to free speech, equal protection and due process.

At least 15 other states are considering similar "Don't Say Gay" measures. Many are presented as parents' bills of rights or academic transparency measures. 

Bills before Oklahoma legislators include one that would prohibit librarians and teachers from discussing gender identity and another that would allow families to sue teachers for $10,000 if they promote positions "in opposition to the closely held religious beliefs of students."

A bill in the Tennessee House would ban textbooks that "promote, normalize, support, or address" LGBT issues or "lifestyles," while legislators in Indiana have penned a bill requiring parents to give permission for any classroom discussion involving gender identity, sexual orientation, "transgenderism" or any aspect of human sexuality.

Transgender athlete bans

Roughly half of the anti-transgender legislation at the state level would prohibit trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 

On Mar. 30, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the "Save Women's Sports Act," which prohibits transgender girls from playing on female sports teams at the high school or college level.

transgender rights

At least 15 states are considering some form of ban on trans students in school sports.

Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

"When it comes to sports and athletics, girls should compete against girls [and] boys should compete against boys," Stitt said at the signing. "And let's be very clear: That's all this bill says."

Lawmakers in at least 15 states are considering some form of a transgender-athlete ban, according to the legislative tracker from Freedom for All Americans, which advocates for LGBTQ equality.

In addition to Oklahoma, they include Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. 

Frequently, the language is aimed specifically at transgender girls in sports, not trans boys: Last week, for example, the Kansas Senate passed a bill that requires "female student athletic teams only include members who are biologically female."

That measure now awaits a hearing in the House. Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year but Republicans may have enough votes this time to override a veto.

It's not just Democrats balking at these bills, though: GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana vetoed a trans-athlete ban on March 23, saying the legislature hadn't demonstrated there was a problem that required government intervention.

But three days later Utah lawmakers overrode Republican Gov. Spencer Cox's veto of the Student Eligibility in Scholastic Activities Act, which prohibits "a student of the male sex from competing against another school on a team designated for female students." 

Idaho became the first state to pass a transgender athlete ban back in March 2020, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, according to the Movement Advancement Project

Most recently, a ban in Arizona, the Save Women's Sports Act was signed into law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday.

Prohibition on transition-related care for minors 

In April 2021, Arkansas became the first (and, to date, only) state to ban transition-related care for minors when the GOP-dominated legislature overrode Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of HB 1570, the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act.

After the Texas Legislature failed to pass a transition-care ban in 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive action in February ordering the state's child welfare agency to treat gender-affirming medical care as felony child abuse. Members of the general public are empowered to report parents if it appears that their children are receiving such treatment. 

rally for transgender rights in Alabama

Attendees at a rally at the Alabama State House opposing legislation that would make it a crime for doctors to give puberty blockers to transgender minors.

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Kate Oakley, Human Rights Campaign's state legislative director and senior counsel, called the action "outrageously lawless."

"It's against science and appalling abuse of executive power," Oakley told CNET. Both Abbott's order and the Arkansas law are being challenged in court.

At least 14 other states are looking to restrict gender-affirming care for minors, some with criminal penalties for medical providers and parents.

Alabama's Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which has cleared the state Senate and is now before the House, would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to someone under 18.  

"Adults are free to do what they want to do, but this is to protect children. I consider it abuse to give these long-term drugs to these children," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Wesley Allen, told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, The Hill reported

Similar legislation is being considered in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Age-appropriate care for transgender minors is considered medically appropriate by a majority of health care organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pediatric Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Other anti-transgender legislation

While sports bans and prohibition on medical care have been the most common and successful bills, there are also measures aiming at restricting access to restrooms and prohibiting changes to gender markers on birth certificates.

Arizona's HB 2161 would make it illegal for teachers or administrators to withhold information from a parent who is deemed relevant to their child's wellbeing. 

Transgender rights

Bills in 14 states would restrict minors' access to transition-related care, some with criminal penalties for doctors and parents.

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It specifically cites details about a student's "purported gender identity or requested transition" if that identity "is incongruous with the student's biological sex." School districts can be sued for noncompliance, and teachers can lose their certification. 

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Kaiser, says it's not the school's job to be a safe space for students.

"Their job is to teach my son reading, writing and math," Kaiser said, according to KJZZ. "Their job is not to console my son. That's to let me know so I can coach my son and console my son." 

Human Rights Campaign's Oakley says bills like Kaiser's work to "taking out the support for trans youth one by one." 

"Whether it's parents and doctors, teammates, teachers or guidance counselors," she added. "The goal is to contract and contract the support the kids have until they're all alone."